Thousands of people from around the world put this Minnesota attraction on their bucket list each year — visit the Darwin Twine Ball Museum, home of the world’s largest ball of twine made by one man. Movies have been made about it, and even Weird Al Yankovic trekked across America to see this manmade wonder and glorified it in song. You will find Weird Al’s picture in the Twine Ball Museum.
Darwin, a Minnesota town boasting a population of 276, located in Meeker County, celebrates The World’s Largest Ball of Twine the second Saturday of August with a parade, craft fair, sand volleyball, kids’ tractor pull, bean bag tournament, music, food, and even the Darwin Twine K race (3.3 miles). The 23rd annual Twine Ball celebration will be held Aug. 9.
The largest ball of twine made by one man can be seen in a glass-enclosed gazebo in front of the museum next to the water tower. Francis Johnson, son of U.S. congressman Magnus Johnson, wound his first piece of baler twine around two fingers to form a ball in March of 1950 at the age of 35. He rolled twine four hours a day, every day in his basement. He eventually moved the ball onto his front lawn and used railroad jacks to assist in the wrapping. He did this for 29 years when he stopped in 1979 at the age of 65. He died Oct. 24, 1989, in Litchfield from emphysema. He never married and has a few distant relatives still living in the area. By then the ball weighed almost 9 tons and was nearly 12 feet high, measured about 40 feet around and was recorded in the Guiness Book of World Records until 1994. It was removed from the book because several people made a ball of plastic twine that weighed considerably less. Frank Stoeber, of Cawker City, Kan., saw Johnson’s twine ball as a challenge. He started amassing his own ball, and soon had over 1,600,000 feet of twine rolled into a sphere 11 feet in diameter — a foot shy of the Darwin Twine Ball.
Francis Johnson born on April 17, 1904, in Kingston Township, was also a handy wood carver. He began carving at the age of 6 when a classmate taught him to make a pair of pliers that opened and closed without splitting the wood. Carving became a major pastime when Francis retired. He carved one pair of pliers, then another, then another pair. Before long he made pliers inside of pliers, inside of pliers. It took him two months to create the 7-foot pliers that are on display at the Twine Ball museum.
Chris Hansen has been active with the Twine Ball Celebration since its beginning 23 years ago and is currently the chairman of the Darwin Community Club that runs the museum.
“It’s been an exciting adventure working with all the volunteers and meeting people from around the world who wish to see the world’s largest ball of twine made by one man,” Chris said. “I want to thank all the people who make this event possible. It’s the Twine that Winds the community together.”
Of the thousands of visitors to the Twine Ball, there were three families from out of state visiting on the same day and at the same time. Tom Davidson and his family of Dade City, Fla., were visiting the Twine Ball museum on July 3. “This is something I wanted to see and show my family, all my life”, Davidson said. He grew up in Minnetonka, had heard about the Twine Ball, but never seen it. On this very same day there were spectators from Foster City, Calif. and West Valley City, Utah. They were all excited and thrilled to see the world’s largest ball of twine made by one man. They can now check it off their bucket list.