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Illinois' Cheesiest Tourist Traps

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Illinois' Cheesiest Tourist Traps

World’s Largest Catsup Bottle and Two-Story Outhouse

No more cheese curds? No more fish boils? No more water slides? No more stops at the Mars Cheese Castle, just before crossing back into Illinois? Those are the sacrifices local union leader John O’Grady is asking us to make.

O’Grady, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 704, is encouraging Chicago-area federal employees to boycott Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida for their “anti-labor” and “anti-union positions.”

“Why should you spend your good money in a state that basically works against unions and works against workers?” O’Grady asked.

A Sun-Times letter-writer made the same point, promising to cancel her trips to Lego weekend in Lake Geneva and Circus World in Baraboo.

This could really hurt. Wisconsin’s economy is based on beer, motorcycles and tourist traps for Chicagoans. Illinois doesn’t have the world’s largest muskie, the Tommy Bartlett Water Show or the oldest bowling alley in America. But it’s time we spent a summer rediscovering our own state. Here’s a list of attractions that are as cheesy as anything in Wisconsin.

  • World’s Largest Catsup Bottle: A water tank painted to look like a bottle of Brooks Catsup, this piece of Americana can be found on Route 159 in Collinsville.
     
  • The Super Museum: There’s only one Metropolis in the United States. It’s a small town in Southern Illinois, but Superman fan Jim Hambrick still thought it was the only place for a museum of his 100,000-piece collection. There’s a famous photograph of Barack Obama copying the hands-on-hips posture of the Superman statue in the town square. 
     
  • The Chicken Car: Krekel’s Kustard, a Decatur drive-in, promotes itself with the regionally-famous chicken, a sedan with a chicken head on the roof, and a tail sprouting from the trunk. 
     
  • The Popeye Picnic: Cartoonist E.C. Segar grew up in the Mississippi River town of Chester and based his characters on the locals. A muscular tough named Rocky was renamed Popeye. Chester built a Popeye statue on the riverfront and holds a picnic the second weekend of September, featuring a display of collectible spinach cans.  
     
  • Two-Story Outhouse: If you’ve driven through the Central Illinois village of Gays -- and who hasn’t -- you’ve seen this monument to regularity, and wondered “what about the guy on the first floor?” According to Roadside America, “its upper- and lower-floor holes are discreetly placed on opposite sides, and a second, inset wall on the ground floor forms an invisible chute. Droppings from above plummet unobstructed and out of sight, although not out of earshot.”

Gov. Pat Quinn gave up a trip to Wisconsin to protest the state’s labor laws. OK, he did it to welsh on a bet. But if he can ignore our neighbor to the north, so can you. Especially when there’s so much to see in Illinois. 

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