The world's biggest balls

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It was a roadside phenomenon that grew into a country-wide craze; now it seems that every state in the union lays claim to at least one or two record-breaking balls. What compels people to make their balls so big? We may never know -- we can only admire them, and pay homage. Which is just what this list intends to do. So without further ado, here are the world's biggest balls of:

TWINE

Some pertinent stats: It weighs nearly 18,000 pounds, just shy of nine tons. It has a circumference of 40 feet. It also has its own mini-museum -- more of an enclosed gazebo, really -- in Darwin, Minnesota, where creator Francis Johnson spent four hours a day winding it for 29 years, from 1950 to 1979. The town celebrates "Twine Ball Day" every August. (But all is not well in twine-ball town; a controversy has brewed for years over whose ball is biggest, Darwin's or the one on display in Branson, MO, built by millionaire J. C. Payne of using a system of pulleys. The Guinness Book certified the latter as the largest, but Darwinians claimed that Payne cheated by using machines.) By the way, these are only the largest balls of twine built by one person; the largest community-built ball resides in Cawker City, Kansas, where every year a "twine-a-thon" is held in which townsfolk gather 'round the ball and help it grow.

PAINT
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Michael Carmichael has spent twenty-eight years painting a baseball, which has nearly 20,000 coats on it to date and weighs at least 40 pounds. The town where it resides, Alexandria, Indiana, is also home to the world's largest hairball, which was found in the sewers some years ago and was (an apparently true) feature in the National Enquirer. Even more amazing, the huge ball of paint was identified by the Dept. of Homeland Security as a "distinguished heritage site" which helped qualify Indiana for a slice of its annual terror defense budget.

BARBED WIRE
Sitting in an open field in Texas is the world's largest ball of barbed wire, wound together over 30 years by the same mad genius who created the Guinness-recognized twine ball (see above), J.C. Payne. Weighing 21,000 pounds and measuring 11.5 feet in diameter, it's probably also the world's largest tetanus hazard.

POPCORN
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Constructed in a popcorn factor in Sac City, Iowa (doesn't that seem like cheating?), Guinness recognized this ball as the world's largest in 2004. 910 lbs. of popcorn, 1500 lbs. of sugar and 690 lbs. of syrup went into making the seven-foot-tall, 3,100 pound treat.

RUBBER BANDS
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Oregonian Steve Milton created the world's largest ball of rubber bands with a little help (and about 175,000 rubber bands) from his friends at OfficeMax. It weighs in at 4,000+ lbs and stands 5.5 feet high.

March 5, 2007 - 8:50am
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