By Nan Royce
DARWIN, MN In 1937 that’s 80 years ago if you’re counting the civic leaders of Darwin wanted a way to show appreciation to its citizens, as well as a way to showcase their little town.
The Darwin Community Club has been sponsoring many different events since its inception, all designed to promote business and community.
In its earliest days, the club hosted auctions, events for kids, baseball games, movies, and benefits for whomever might welcome such events.
Arguably, the community club’s philanthropic prowess began to spread far and wide when it became the keeper and caretaker of the world’s largest ball of twine made by one person.
The twine ball was the work of Darwin’s Francis A. Johnson, who began twirling twine one day in 1950. Johnson didn’t stop until 1979, by which time the twine ball was approximately 12 feet wide, and weighed 9 tons.
Following Johnson’s demise, rumored to have been caused partially by twine dust inhalation, the big ball was moved into town.
Over time, a twine ball museum and souvenir shop were placed directly behind the plexiglass-enclosed 9-ton wonder, now easily spotted on Darwin‘s main drag.
In a 2013 Enterprise Dispatch article written by Kristen Miller, readers learned it was the Darwin Community Club that provided the care and concern for the twine ball. Soon, people began coming to town from places around the globe to view the huge structure.
Miller reported that representatives from Ripley’s Believe It Or Not wanted the Darwin Twine Ball and wanted it badly. But, the Darwin Community Club wasn’t interested in selling.
Miller wrote, Ripley’s Vice President of Exhibits and Archives Edward Meyer admired Darwin’s ball of twine so much he made an offer to the Darwin Community Club in 1990. He was met by townsfolk sporting twine ball attire and stone-cold faces.
The community club has cared for the twine ball meticulously through the years.
Stories about the town’s iconic object have been widely-spun.
The commercial club-sponsored twine ball eventually found fame across the country.
Roadside America gave the twine ball its highest grade “The Best,” which it defines as the highest ranking, “awarded to its real superstar attractions. An exclusive club.”
Time magazine listed Darwin’s twine ball among its top 50 roadside attractions in a July 2010 article.
And in 2013, filmmakers KC and Bryan Duggan completed a documentary about the Darwin Twine Ball, which prominently featured townspeople, as well as community club members.
Community club members knew, without a doubt, that the twine ball helped achieve their goals of constant philanthropy and community promotion.
Twine Ball Day was born around 1991. The annual celebration has taken place in August ever since, drawing crowds far-exceeding Darwin’s population of approximately 350 people.
All proceeds from Twine Ball Day go directly back into the Darwin community.
Earlier this year, the Minnesota State Lottery honored the Darwin Twine Ball on a scratch-off lottery ticket, which featured other famous Minnesota landmarks.
Although Darwin didn’t earn any money for allowing their Twine Ball to be featured on the lottery ticket, it undoubtably increased the icon’s fame.
To this day, the Darwin Community Club remains in action, promoting its beloved City of Darwin, and using its famous and monumental twine ball to draw in tourist interest and support.
The Darwin Twine Ball and Museum are located along the city’s three-block main street.
For more information regarding the community club or the twine ball, call (320) 693-7544.