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Feature Article

ALBERTA'S BIG ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS

Written By: Lawrence Herzog
Published By: Real Estate Weekly
Article © Copyright Lawrence Herzog
2006-08-17

Alberta\

When it comes to roadside attractions, size is everything. Alberta's got some big ones, from the ingenious to the whimsical, and the daring to the perplexing. These roadside attractions have become tourist attractions in their own right, drawing people by the carload who come to gawk, pose for photos and be dazzled at the imagination and inspiration of the larger-than-life creations.

Within a few hours drive of Edmonton, you'll find a pyrogy on a fork, the world's largest Pysanka (Easter egg), a chunk of sausage, a giant duck, some overgrown mushrooms, a big beaver, a spaceship and a lot more. Big roadside attractions are a big draw all over the province and, it turns out, all over the country.

Just ask Ed Solonyka. The Sudbury, Ontario man has compiled an exhaustive collection of photographs of such attractions, and he lists them on his website www.roadsideattractions.ca. The site includes listings for such roadside marvels as the World's Largest Coke Can, the World's Largest Sundial, the World's Largest Lobster, the Biggest Piggy Bank in the World, the World's Largest Adirondack Chair, and the World's Largest Bee.

He started the venture in 1998 as an offshoot of a website he had dedicated to his late uncle who was a poet. "The site included his biography, a selection of his poems and a few photos," Solonyka explains. "The only problem was that it was a static site so after a while I was looking for an interesting topic that had growth potential and would be fun as well."

He came across a site with some photos of some roadside attractions created by an American woman who had completed a road trip across Canada. "I had some similar photos and thought that a collection of photos of roadside attractions would make an interesting web site. I did some research on the Internet and obtained a few more photos to add to my collection and opened the web site with about 50 photos. Since then the collection has grown to more than 750 photos, mainly thanks to the contributions of visitors to my web site."

Solonyka is fascinated by roadside attractions and their reflection of interesting aspects of the community and area where they are located. "They can relate to the main crop of the area, something historical, or the main industry. Sometimes its just something whimsical to draw tourists to the community such as the World's Largest Pyrogy in Glendon, Alberta."

Recognizing the draw of these big attractions, like the Glendon pyrogy, Kalyna Country Ecomuseum in east-central Alberta has put together the "World's Largest Roadside Attractions Tour." The driving route includes a dozen sites and makes a great day trip from Edmonton.

My journey begins at Mundare, home to Stawnichy's Meat Processing and the sausage capital of Alberta. The town's giant sausage, right near the water tower, was erected in 2001. It stands nearly 14 metres high, nearly five metres wide and weighs in at about six tonnes, making it the largest sausage in the world.

Andrew is just west of Whitford Lake, a popular breeding ground for waterfowl, and so it was a natural that when the community decided to enter the big attractions game, it chose a Mallard duck as its symbol. With a nearly eight metre wingspan, Andrew's Mallard duck is the largest in the world. The giant mallard was constructed by the Lions Club starting in 1992 with a tourism grant from the provincial government.

Northeast of Andrew and Mundare, in the heart of Alberta's mushroom-picking haven, the Village of Vilna has sprouted three six-metre high mushrooms just two blocks off main street. No Alice, you're not in wonderland. The Tricholoma uspale mushrooms grew thanks to the Vilna Lions Club, who started the project in 1993.

Other big roadside attractions in this part of the province include the world's first UFO Landing Pad in St. Paul, a big chuckwagon at Dewberry, the largest oil derrick at Redwater, the Peter Fidler Historical Monument at Elk Point and the RCMP Memorial Statue on the Victoria Trail near Waskatenau.

Glendon's pyrogy is a 2,700-kilogram Ukrainian dumpling on a fork that has to be seen to be believed. "Biggest pyrogy in the world," a woman at a local coffee shop told me. At nine metres tall, nearly four metres wide and weighing in at more than 2,700 kilograms, I would think so.

My journey into Kalyna Country ends at Vegreville, 80 kilometres east of Edmonton on Highway 16, with Alberta's most famous big roadside attraction. Thirty years ago, the world's largest Easter egg was laid in Vegreville. This giant pysanka (Ukrainian Easter egg) tops nine metres high, seven metres long and more than 5.5 metres wide.

Its aluminum skin is composed of 2,208 triangular pieces, held together by 6,978 nuts and bolts. The pysanka tips the scales at more than 2,270 kilograms and it took 12,000 man hours to build.

Even the passage of time hasn't diminished the impact of the giant egg, which perches on a pedestal in Elk's Park, on the eastern side of the community. It's just as dazzling now as it was when it first rolled into town, putting Vegreville on the international tourist map.

Kalyna Country's tour, with a suggested route to take, is online at www.kalynacountry.com/highway-worldslargest-tour.htm. The Alberta Big Tour is also a great resource at http://www.albertabigtour.ca.

Northwest of Edmonton, Barrhead has the world's largest Great Blue Heron. The bird is made from rebar, mesh, wire and concrete and rises more than four metres. It was built by Trygve (Tig) Seland, who has also designed a variety of other big monuments, including Hanna's Geese.

In the Peace Country, Beaverlodge is home to "you guessed it" the world's largest beaver. The big rodent was unveiled as part of its 75th anniversary celebration in July 2004. It stands five metres high, nine metres long and weighs nearly 1,400 kilograms.

Southeast of Calgary, Vulcan is a town and coincidentally the famous planet from Star Trek, with a replica of the Starship Enterprise. The town was named by a railway surveyor in 1910 for the Roman God of fire and blacksmithing but, when Star Trek became a hit in the late 1960s, some enterprising minds knew the connection was too good to miss. Today there's also a Tourism & Trek Station, staffed by the Captain and a friendly crew.

It, like many of Alberta's roadside attractions, is a little out of this world. That's a big part of the fun.


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