Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Naff tourist attractions of our time: Presidents Park

I always love to find a naff tourist attraction so imagine my joy on the way to Williamsburg today when I took a wrong turn and found Presidents Park.

The site of a collection of gigantic white heads in a wooded glade was enough for me to cut across a few lanes of traffic clutching my camera, almost causing a six vehicle pile up.

Presidents Park closed down last September when it ran out of money. I assumed it had been there for decades but apparently it only opened up as a tourist attraction in 2006.

In presidential terms it would be William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of the United States who decided not to wear a coat or hat when he took the oath of office on a rainy day and made a two hour speech. A month later he died of pneumonia.


On a sunny March day the heads were quietly gathering mold and bird droppings in silence while the fence around them was steadily rusting away. Nodoby cared about these big old presidents gathered in beffudlement under the trees. I was amazed by the size of the busts but less so by their craftsmanship.

As one reader rather drily described Presidents Park beneath an article describing its demise it was like "Easter Island for the lame."

Apparently there are 43 giant busts in the park and that of the 44th president lies unfinished in a workshop somewhere.

Owners of the park said failure to secure the 44th bust was a tipping point, and the Obama statue, would have been a huge boon to the business, possibly even saving the park.

Oh really. It's not as if Barack Obama is ever on TV is it?

The mind boggles about what the park's owners are going to do with these giant busts. It's not your average member of the public who will say: "Forget the garden gnome Mavis. Let's get a 20 foot high bust of James Polk for the rockery."

Ever since the Griswalds went on the hunt for the world's largest ball of string, I've been somewhat fascinated by America's strangest and naffest tourist attractions, not to the point of obsessing at 4 a.m. or anything.

The string ball was fiction but apparently the world's largest twine ball can be seen in Darwin, Minnesota. When in Minnesota and all that, I guess.

More correctly it's known as the "World's Largest Twine Ball Rolled By One Man" because a rival twine ball in Cawker City, Kansas, is regularly added-to by visitors and townspeople. Darwin feels that this is cheating.

Someone should perhaps have told twine man to get a life. But obviously he didn't. Apparently the creator died of emphysema, and the townfolk figured 30 years of exposure to twine dust, did for him.

Other gems are contained in a website of the worst tourist attractions in America. They include Seattle's wall of brightly colored chewing gum, the world's largest ball of paint (sadly the world's largest hairball disintegrated, after choking a few dozen cats), The Barbed Wire Museum in Texas, The National Museum of Funeral History (another naff Texas museum), and South Dakota's Corn Palace which looks like a mosque but is a veritable shrine to corn.

You have to be a special kind of person to want to visit these places, either that or you have to live in somewhere like South Dakota.

All of which makes those busts of presidents or the tedious model villages I used to be dragged around back in England as a kid, suddenly seem like a great day out.

20 comments:

  1. "Easter Island for the lame" ~ now I have to put this on my bucket list!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Fell asleep halfway through the ad for selling these busts, I like busts, how do I get a bust?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Gosh, some of those "attractions" make our giant yabbie look positively riveting by comparison. You haven't lived till you've had your photo taken beside it! Glad you got the photo without major incident.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I did this on a road trip to Houston. There's a huge ol' statue of... you guessed it? Sam Houston. Happily, there's two photo ops: the statue and a head. The head's like the busts in your picture, only, no shoulders.

    Ah, before the days of camera phones. Thanks for the memory jog.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wait till you get to Florida and see the "Official Redneck Museum" in Bithlo. Even the name of the town "Bithlo" suggests a raucous good time. Trucker hats and sleeveless shirts are mandatory.

    ReplyDelete
  6. First of all, you are hilarious. That park is AWESOME. I have to go there and see the insanity for myself!

    And I need to keep that website you mentioned away from my parents. They are those "special people" you speak of. You have NO idea how many times we've stopped at those kinds of tourist attractions during road trips over the years. To name a few, I have been to the Corn Palace, I have visited the world's largest pencil, and I have been INSIDE the world's largest cuckoo clock.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Haha there is a Kansas City in Kansas but I don't recommend it to anyone. It's a frightening town filled with drugs, shootings, and gangs.

    ReplyDelete
  8. for sure Lidia - it's also cheaper than Easter Island. Thanks for stopping by Violet, well they seem to be going for whoever wants them. Thanx Sue, what's a yabbie? On wow Mollie, how did he lose his head? I'd love to see the redneck museum Sausage Fingers. I know jennifer, but you'd have to climb the fence as it's shut down.

    ReplyDelete
  9. "Forget the garden gnome Mavis. Let's get a 20 foot high bust of James Polk for the rockery." That made me laugh! :D

    What will they think of next!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hmm, I never knew about this Park. And I'm okay with that.

    ReplyDelete
  11. This is quite a shock to a mind spoiled by classical art history education. Thank you for posting; now I`ll be prepared :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. glad you liked that one Daisy, thanks for the follo Homemaker, you could probably get through life without knowing about it. Yep Olga, don't let a classical education be spoiled by kitch

    ReplyDelete
  13. I've never been to this place and hopefully never will!

    Btw, I really don't get all the model villages over here. Why? WHY?

    ReplyDelete
  14. A 'bust' president, who would have thunk it...?

    ReplyDelete
  15. Easter Island for the lame? I really want to shake the hand of the person who came up with that! I really enjoyed this post, it was entertaining, great photos, I learned something and I get a new place to want to visit. The last statement might not be entirely true though I do love the model village in Cockington Devon. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  16. This is like the most random place ever. More random than Grimbsby.

    ReplyDelete
  17. If I ever visit the great land...I would prefer to see Mt.Rushmore with the carved President faces...wonder if the brains behind the "worst tourists spots" website went through the torture of visiting them?

    ReplyDelete
  18. Very Nice Blog

    India Capital is Delhi, Delhi is a very nice Tourist Place. If you want to know more about Delhi Tourist Place. Please Contact me on my Mobile No- 8527636893

    ReplyDelete
  19. Maybe this explains all those old tourist attractions like the Easter Island heads and Stonehenge... they were really just lame tourist things, but now they are so old that we think they're cool. I understand there are some mystery trees in Oregon, too. Americans have to go to these weird places because we are still such a young country, we don't have much that's better, especially in the mid-west.

    ReplyDelete
  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete