What do Superman and Catsup have in common?

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Well, beside the color red- there are small towns in Illinois with giant monuments and annual festivals to celebrate them! This month I got to visit both towns in one day.

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A few weeks back my wife Nicki and I took a trip up to St. Louis for the weekend to celebrate my birthday and our anniversary. On the way back home we decided to make a couple detours. The first one was across the state line and Mississippi River to¬†Collinsville, IL– the home of the world’s largest catsup bottle.

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We drove down Main Street and turned right onto HWY 159 and just a couple minutes later the giant catsup bottle water tower was just ahead of us!

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The water tower stands 170′ tall– 70′ bottle on 100′ legs, has a bottom diameter of 25′, top diameter of 8′ at the cap, and a capacity of 100,00 gallons. It was built in 1949 by¬†Caldwell Tanks of Louisville, KY.¬†Brooks brand catsup/ketchup is still being made by Birds Eye Foods in Canada, but is hard to find in the states. You can purchase a bottle of your own here.

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This famous red condiment created in Collinsville was once produced at the base of the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle for many years. At one time the bottle’s future was in danger, but the ¬†Catsup Bottle Preservation Group was formed and it was restored in 1995 at a cost of¬†$77,440.¬†You can read more about the rich history of Brooks and the giant catsup bottle at www.catsupbottle.com. The¬†Annual Brooks¬ģ¬†World’s Largest Catsup Bottle¬ģ¬†Festival Birthday Party & Car Show is held each year in early July. My kind of party!¬†You can follow them on Twitter-¬†@CatsupBottleSTL

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After taking my photos Nicki and I got back on the road and found our way over to I-24 and headed south to Metropolis, IL- the Official Home of Superman. It has a frequently photographed water tower, too.

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It was a bit cold and rainy on the way to Metropolis, but slacked off a bit once we got in town- at least long enough for us to take some pics. We first hit Daily Star Comics to check out their TARDIS and do some Doctor Who shopping (you can see that HGWT blog here). Then we went around the corner to Market Street and down to Superman Square.

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That’s where the $120,000 giant bronze Superman statue has been keeping watch over the city since 1993. I’m not sure of the exact height of the statue- I’ve heard everything from 12′-18′ tall, but it’s pretty big and a heck of a photo op for any Superman fan.

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It also beats the heck out of the original $1000 ¬†7′ tall fiberglass statue that first stood there for a short time and was more of a target than an attraction for the town. (That’s the official Superman of Metropolis, actor/bodybuilder¬†Josh Boultinghouse above.)

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Back in the ’70s the real¬†Metropolis (which is more like the fictional Smallville) officially became the “Hometown of Superman” and¬†the town¬†had plans to build a thousand-acre, $50 million Superman theme park. The main attraction was to be a¬†200′ tall Superman statue¬†which cars could drive between the Man of Steel’s legs to enter the park. But OPEC and the “gas shortage” that decade killed those \S/uper plans faster than kryptonite ever could.

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Luckily you can’t keep a good Kryptonian or his hometown down for long. I’ve been visiting Metropolis since 1999, and I’ve been back to town every year since- some years 2-3 times for different events like the huge¬†Superman Celebration¬†in June.

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Fans of all ages descend on the small town during the 4 day event, and this year at the¬†35th¬†annual Superman Celebration¬†they celebrated Superman’s 75th birthday. You can find out more on the celebration at www.SupermanCelebration.net and follow them on Twitter-¬†@SupermanCele

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On the way out of town Nicki and I took a few more pics, swung by Creations The Florist to say hi to our friends Lisa and Karla¬†(two sisters who are the co-chairs for the¬†Superman Celebration) and their dad Papa Cliff, we headed across the Ohio River into Paducah, KY and then on to Sikeston, MO for a belated birthday dinner at Lambert’s Cafe– home of the throwed rolls! It’s just off I-55, and one of my favorite stops when heading to/from Metropolis, Chester, or Cape Girardeau.

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Over the weekend we ended up driving through 6 states and I lost count of how many times we crossed back and forth over the Mississippi River, but I had a blast and look forward to heading back this summer for both festivals.

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If you like unusual roadside attractions and fun statues check out my other blogs on the Lois Lane/Noel Neill statue in Metropolis and the Popeye Picnic and statues in Chester, IL– another small town festival in Illinois that celebrates Popeye and his creator E.C. Segar.

Hope everyone has a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Lin