It’s not just a ball of twine

July 20, 2009

by Kristen Miller

Growing up in rural Darwin, I was always aware that I lived in the town of the biggest ball of twine.

After all, upon meeting people and telling them where I was from, they may not have known where the town exactly was on a map, but they sure knew it was the home of the biggest ball of twine.

Through the years of working at the newspaper, I’ve became friends with the keeper of the Twine Ball, Roger Werner.

He is actually the director of the Darwin Twine Ball Museum and has been since 2000.

Roger likes being the director because he gets to meet so many people from around the country, even from around the world.

With the two guest books – one inside the museum and one by the twine ball – Roger estimates more than 5,000 people will have visited the twine ball just this summer.

While visiting with him last week at the museum, a family from New Jersey stopped by for the first time.

Matt Downing is a high school science teacher in New Jersey and a big fan of Weird Al Yankovic – that’s where they first heard about the “biggest ball of twine in Minnesota.”

The Downing family was driving through to Montana to work at a Bible camp and made sure to stop in and see the ball of twine.

To get the full experience, they had the Yankovic song dedicated to Darwin, blaring in their vehicle as they pulled up to the 1,700-pound ball of twine.

Straight out of the song, the Downings had pickled wieners, potato skins, and songs by Slim Whitman.

I have to say, living in Darwin with the ball of twine at my fingertips, I had no idea just how big that ball was, when it comes to notoriety.

People really make an effort to see it, and take their picture next to it, even pick up a souvenir from the gift shop.

Looking at just one of the many guest books the museum has acquired throughout the years, I was able to see just where these people came from.

Some were from cities in Minnesota like Maple Grove, but a majority were from out-of-state, with some even out of country.

Roger recalled a freelance writer from England who flew to Minnesota just to come to Darwin to see the twine ball. She had to hurry back because her flight home was leaving three hours later, he said.

The twine ball is so big it even made the CBS Nightly News last November with “On the Road Again,” a series tracking some of the places Charles Kuralt visited during an original show.

Kuralt actually visited the maker himself, Francis Johnson. Roger told me Johnson was the only person Kuralt had on his show twice.

Just the other night while watching WCCO, “Finding Minnesota” featured the big ol’ ball, as well.

Not only is the twine ball getting publicity, but Roger, himself, has had a fair share of air time, too.

I have to admit, it’s pretty cool seeing anything on television about the town you grew up in. It’s kind of nice to be known for something.

To me, after all these years, it may just be a big ball of twine. But for so many traveling far distances to catch a glimpse and snap a picture, it’s so much more.