Every so often, Terri and I head different directions and wander off on our own. When I got invited to Madison County, IN, I think she was in Sweden or France or somewhere like that, but why she wouldn’t drop everything to rush back to see the world’s largest ball of paint, I don’t know. Sometimes I think there’s something seriously wrong with that girl.
And yes, you read that right. The WORLD’S LARGEST BALL OF PAINT. Right here in the good old US of A. I was beside myself with excitement when I heard that it was only five and a half hours from Pittsburgh. Top that off with the fact that the county also has a Tenderloin Trail, and I couldn’t get in my Jeep, Lucille, fast enough.
My hostess for the trip, Maureen Lambert, didn’t seem to realize what a treasure they had in their midst; while she appreciated the artifact, she seemed a little surprised by my enthusiasm. Perhaps those Hoosiers get a bit jaded when they can see the hulking manmade attraction anytime.
Have Roller, Will Travel
We drove to a white house along a rural road and pulled into the driveway in front of a large shed. Of course, I’m expecting lines of admirers—I mean, even Jay Leno and the Oak Ridge Boys have made the pilgrimage to see it. But it was just us for some crazy reason. We were greeted by Mike Carmichael and his wife, Glenda, who are the keepers of this canon of kitsch.
Mike: So you ready to see the world’s largest ball of paint?
Me: I am seriously so excited I can’t stand it.
After glancing at me a little uncertainly (I might have been drooling a bit), Mike unlocks the door, and there it is in all of its massive, electric yellow glory. A 5,000 pound, 14-foot wide ball of paint, hanging from a large hook in the ceiling. And It. Is. Beautiful. Americana at its absolute best.
According to Carmichael, the ball of paint started as a little project that got out of hand. In 1977, he and his son painted a baseball with a coat of paint…and they just kept on doing it. Soon the ball took on a life of its own and became a roadside attraction. The ball has now made the Guinness Book of World Records twice!
Curious about what it’s like to live with the world’s biggest ball of paint, I asked Glenda what she thought about the project.
Glenda: It was fun for a while, until it got too big for the house. We kept it in a closet. When it got too big, we moved it to the porch. Then it wouldn’t fit, so we built it a shed.
Me: To be honest, I might have thrown it away in those early stages, not knowing what a treasure it would become.
Glenda: Believe me, I tried.
The Largest Grape Ever
One of the coolest parts of a visit to the World’s Largest Ball of Paint is that you get to add to its history. Mike had gallon cans of paint on the floor and you get to choose your own color and roller and repaint the ball—which is no small feat in itself. There’s even a mirror on the floor underneath to make sure that you don’t miss a spot.
While the most popular color is blue, I chose to go with purple, which was my grandmother’s favorite color. She lived just down the road a ways in Beech Grove, IN, so it seemed a fitting tribute. When my work was done, I had created a massive, lavender-hued hanging grape—perhaps not my most attractive art piece, but definitely one of the most fun to create. I then signed the wall, which all Ball-of-Paint artists do for posterity, and received a certificate (now framed and hanging in a place of honor in my house) commemorating my role in adding the 25,886th layer to the ball.
If You Go…
The World’s Largest Ball of Paint: You need to call for an appointment first, so reach out to Mike and Glenda at 765-724-4088. They’ll give you directions, and the signs in the yard also serve as a great tip-off to the giant gem hidden inside the storage shed.
Painting such a huge object can wear a person out, so it’s a good idea to get a bite to eat after this workout! Check out the culinary trails put together by the Indiana Foodways Alliance to find the best places for tenderloin (another reason to visit Indiana!) pies, burgers, fish, ice cream, and well, pretty much everything you can think of to eat.
There are a number of other cool stops in the area, so make sure to check out the listings on www.visitmadisonandersoncounty.com to see more. And tell Mo that I sent you!