Big Reasons to Visit the Small Town of Casey, Illinois
When the World’s Largest Wind Chime came to Casey in 2012, the small farming community changed its tune.
Travelers on Interstate 70 suddenly noticed this tiny dot on the road map between St. Louis and Indianapolis. They drove off the freeway’s path to ring the 54-foot towering structure, to photograph it and grab a bite before hitting the road.
The economic benefits of those chimes surprised everyone, so local business owner Jim Bolin literally dreamed bigger. Today, Casey (pronounced “kay-zee” by locals) claims home to eight Guinness World Record-certified World’s Largest items and about a dozen other big things.
SEE MORE: All of the Big Things in Casey, Illinois
“Someone asked me, ‘What are you going to do if something gets beat?’ ” says Bolin, the mastermind behind it all. His family owns Bolin Enterprises, a pipeline and tank maintenance business and the largest employer in town. “Well, it would still be a big thing in a small town.”
So, Bolin trademarked “Big Things in a Small Town,” made signs and created the website BigThingsSmallTown.com, which highlights each recordholder. The site tells how the World’s Largest Rocking Chair earned certification after 10 of Bolin’s employees rocked it. The World’s Largest Golf Tee stands 30 feet above the turf at the Casey Country Club. Visitors can mail letters at the World’s Largest Mailbox to trigger the movement of its flag and receive a special postmark.
The World’s Largest Pitchfork sits outside a restaurant in a barn, the Wooden Shoes in a candy store, and the Knitting Needles and Crochet Hook at the local yarn shop. Visitors will find big, nonrecord holding things in Casey, too, like a big bird cage, pencil, cactus and yardstick.
Go Big or Go Home
Undoubtedly, these big things have revitalized this one-stoplight town of 2,700 people, where local officials a couple years ago lowered the speed limit for safety of pedestrians.
“Big Things in a Small Town has morphed into something way beyond what I expected,” Bolin says. “Give the glory to God. I was just doing one thing for one reason and it just took off from there and kind of grew on its own. It’s been a fun journey.”
Big Heart Behind Big Things
After at least five U.S. and international TV stations featured Casey in 2017, the town now welcomes 1,000 tourists on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. This temporarily increases the town’s population and customer base by 37 percent on weekends.
Five years ago, Bolin could have counted the few retail stores open downtown. Now with business bustling, he knows of businesses and plans for all but four buildings.
Jeanette Huisinga owned only a small yarn shop with limited hours before she housed the World’s Largest Knitting Needles and Crochet Hook. Today, she stays open five days a week, has more than doubled the yarn store’s size and opened an adjoining gift shop called The Farmer’s Wife. She also owns the attached building, where local business owners run a bakery and antique store.
“I never dreamed that it could go like this,” says Huisinga, who knits with the massive needles (a Guinness requirement) at more than 13 feet long and 25 pounds apiece. “It’s amazing to actually witness the revitalization. People talk about these kinds of things happening, but we’re getting to live it.”
Lifelong Clark County resident Sarah Simpson says people stop in to see the oversize rocking horse at JJET Rental, Sales & Service in Casey where she works. They often shop the store’s selection of work clothing and yard equipment, and ask for directions.
“I would have never expected Clark County to be a tourist destination, but it has definitely attracted people from all over,” Simpson says. “It’s neat to see how the small businesses that have disappeared over the years are coming back and seem to be flourishing.”
Gifts Beautify the Town
Not only do sightseers find world records in Casey, they stumble upon beauty. Each record holding item sits amidst an immaculate landscape that Bolin’s employees designed and maintain. Likewise, talented employees of Bolin Enterprises handcrafted these world record holders and larger-than-life items at the Big Things in a Small Town Workshop.
“When you come to Casey, you are going to be amazed at the beauty that surrounds each piece,” Huisinga says. “The way they do the landscaping is just gorgeous and enhances the whole visit.”
Bolin has more big ideas. He would like to stimulate the economy for all of Clark County, so his workshop built an enormous gavel, which sits at the county seat in Marshall. Construction has begun on what should rank as the World’s Largest Barber Shop Pole for the longtime barber shop in Casey. Plans ensue for the World’s Largest Teeter-Totter, as well as a few other big things, like a bookworm and mouse trap.
“I grew up in this town and my heart is with this town,” Bolin says. “There are so many small towns around the United States that are dying because we can’t compete with urban areas. We have to think outside the box and use our ingenuity to get people to come to our town to stop by, visit, shop and eat something.”