There isn’t much on the Collinsville, Illinois, skyline. In fact, there is just one thing: a giant catsup bottle.
I could really end this post there, and that would be everything you need to know. Unfortunately, I love weird crap like this, so let’s delve deeper.
Collinsville is a bedroom community just about half an hour east of St. Louis, Missouri. It is home to about 25,000 people who enjoy a good quality of life, strong property values and a giant bottle of catsup.
More accurately, it is a giant bottle of water – a water tower, even – that is painted to look like a giant bottle of catsup.
Collinsville has a museum and a pretty nice library with an interesting geocache, for the geocachers who may be reading this. Also, within the city limits you’ll find the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, which is a pretty good side trip on its own. Other than that, there aren’t many reasons to visit Collinsville, but how can you pass through the area without viewing the WORLD’s LARGEST CATSUP BOTTLE?
Live a little. Get to it!
The tower was designed and constructed in 1949 to serve the Brooks catsup plant’s new fire suppression system. In 1993 its parent company tried to sell the tower to the city of Collinsville, but they turned it down because the repairs and maintenance would be expensive.
Fortunately for us roadtrip lovers, the community stepped up and raised money to buy the 100,000-gallon water tower, refurbish it and get it on the National Register of Historic Places.
Let’s pause for a minute to discuss catsup versus ketchup. It’s driving me nuts, but the correct spelling for Brooks Catsup is indeed C-A-T-S-U-P. Apparently this was the common spelling for the condiment late 19th century, and even Heinz called their product Catsup, but they changed it to ketchup to stand out. It certainly did, and now most Americans ask for K-E-T-C-H-U-P. In fact, the modern version of the Brooks brand is now Brooks Rich & Tangy Ketchup.
Back to Collinsville’s Catsup bottle. Its base is 100 feet tall and the bottle, itself, is 70 feet tall and 25 feet at the base and 8 feet at the cap.
For 16 years now, the bottle has been celebrated with the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle® Festival Birthday Party & Car Show . Yup. You read that right. They have a birthday party for a water tower.
This year’s event is on July 13, 2014 and features an appearance by the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. That’s the headliner. Could it really have been anything else?
There is also a bike ride, a walk, ketchup tasting, tater tot and watermelon eating contests and – my personal favorite – the Little Princess Tomato and Sir Catsup Contest. Ah, America! If I didn’t have plans that weekend, I would be there in a heartbeat, because I MUST know how that is judged.
Are there tomato related talent contests? Do you throw tomatoes at the losers? So many questions!
Ok, so if ketchup isn’t your thing, rest assured, Collinsville still has you covered – with horseradish. That’s because, despite the giant ketchup bottle in the sky, Collinsville is the self-proclaimed Horseradish Capital of the World.
Not only is it the Horseradish Capital of the World, Collinsville is home to the International Horseradish Festival. Since 1998, the St. Louis suburb forgets all about ketchup and celebrates all things horseradish with hot air balloon rides, the Hottest 5K Around, a bloody Mary contest, an amateur recipe contest and – again, my favorite – the Little Miss Horseradish Festival Pageant.
I don’t have as many questions about Little Miss Horseradish as I do about Little Miss Tomato and Sir Catsup, because the International Horseradish Festival website features contest rules for Little Miss Horseradish.
But questions remain: are Little Miss Tomato and Little Miss Horseradish friends or rivals? Is there a Sir Catsup love triangle? These questions can only be answered in the most American way possible: a reality TV show. Hollywood, please make this happen.