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Painting a different kind of picture

This not-so-little gem exists in Alexandria, IN

By Kendra Smalley | Contributor

Viewing roadside attractions are fun ways to break up the monotony of a long car ride, but sometimes they can feel a bit anticlimactic: you unload from the vehicle, shuffle around a quirky property, snap a few pictures, then pile back in the car to resume your journey. But what if you did something interactive, hands-on and fun? What if you could contribute your own personal touch to one of these fun spectacles, thereby increasing its renown?

You can do so if you visit Alexandria, Indiana. This is the location of the world’s largest ball of paint, a massive, bulging orb of color that weighs more than two and a half tons. Currently, there are more than 25,700 layers of paint on it.

The world’s largest ball of paint in all its glory. (Photograph provided by Erika Nelson, World's Largest Things, Inc.)

The world’s largest ball of paint in all its glory. (Photograph provided by Erika Nelson, World’s Largest Things, Inc.)

But how did this begin?

“It all started when (Mike Carmichael, the ball’s creator) was a junior in high school,” said Glenda Carmichael, Mike Carmichael’s wife. “He and a friend were throwing a baseball back and forth, and one of them dropped it in some paint. So, when they found it the next day, they wrapped a wire around it and started painting it, and it lasted for two years.”

That was the accidental ball. After those two years and 1,000 coats, it was retired. It wasn’t until 1977, when the Carmichaels’ son was three years old, that they decided to begin a new ball of paint, which is the one visitors can view and add to, though never intended to be public, according to Glenda Carmichael. Yet now they’ve had people from all 50 states represent themselves on it in paint, and, as if that wasn’t impressive enough, people from over 50 countries have visited.

When painters arrive, there are six colors to pick from, which usually include shades of red, blue, green, purple and teal. Painting can take some time since the ball is quite large, but it only takes about 15 minutes for each coat to dry since the Carmichaels have set up two industrial fans around the ball. Once a coat is complete, the painter receives an official certificate to commemorate the contribution. And, by the way, adding a new layer is free. However, donations are highly encouraged.

There is also a gift shop with t-shirts available for purchase. The donations and sales money all go to purchasing more paint so people can continue to take part in, enjoy and marvel at the world’s largest ball of paint.

Visitors can add to the ball of paint by rolling their color of choice. (Photograph provided by Erika Nelson, World's Largest Things, Inc.)

Visitors can add to the ball of paint by rolling their color of choice. (Photograph provided by Erika Nelson, World’s Largest Things, Inc.)

For anyone hungry after painting or wanting something to snack on, Glenda Carmichael recommends visiting the Pure and Simple Restaurant, which is part of Gaither Family Resources in Alexandria.

For visits to the world’s largest ball of paint, the Carmichaels ask tourists to call ahead to (765) 724-4088 to schedule an appointment.

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