Quirky Museum: Roadside Sideshow Expo | Exploring the Midwest Podcast Episode 21

Last Updated on June 29, 2021 by Jody Halsted

Perhaps the quirkiest museum ever with the most tongue-twisting name is the World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things, housed in the Roadside Sideshow Expo in Lucas, Kansas.

Erika Nelson is the artist and creator of this once-traveling but now permanent exhibit.

The Roadside Sideshow Expo in Lucas, Kansas

The Roadside Sideshow Expo is a new storefront in downtown Lucas, Kansas. In it, you'll find miniature versions of the “world's largest” things found throughout the U.S., such as the iconic “World's Largest Ball of Twine” found in Cawker City, Kansas.

Nelson visits the “largest” items, then she makes the “world's smallest” version of the “world's largest” thing. After doing this for 15 years, she has amassed the “World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things.”

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Miniature mini golf – Meta Mini Golf Course

The “world's largest” roadside attractions are popular spots for families to break up long road trips. Nelson remembers visiting them as a kid, and when she could drive herself, she felt compelled to visit as many as she could. She began to realize that there was a reason people built these attractions, and the story behind them was either really important to the maker or the town or region.

Nelson began creating her own “souvenirs” after visiting each place, a miniature version of it. Then she realized what she was doing was actually a storytelling tool. It was a way to share these communities' stories. So she began gathering them, first in a mobile museum created out of a bus she would drive around, and now in a permanent exhibit in downtown Lucas.

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Roadside Sideshow Expo

About Lucas — The Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas

Lucas, Kansas, is home to fewer than 500 people but was designated the “Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas” in 1996 by the governor because of its folk art displays.

  • The Grassroots Art Center is situated across the street from the Roadside Sideshow Expo and collects stories of the townspeople who weren't necessarily trained in art but are making arts and crafts in town.
  • The Garden of Eden was built by retired schoolteacher S.P. Dinsmore. Built over 22 years beginning in 1907, the garden is made of limestone and 113 tons of concrete and tells the history of the world, beginning with its creation. You can see 150 figures of various forms throughout the garden.
  • Brant's Meat Market is a multi-generational meat market featuring Czech recipes, including sausages and beef jerky.
  • Florence Deeble's Rock Garden contains sculptures from rocks that she collected on her journeys, beginning at age 50 and continuing for nearly 50 years.
  • Don't miss the public restrooms in downtown Lucas called Bowl Plaza, made to look like the world's largest toilet.
Erika_Nelson_Artist_Circus_Wagons_Sculpture
Circus Wagons Sculpture

Learn more about Lucas, Kansas! Read about our visit to this unique Midwest town!

Where to Stay

You won't find traditional hotels in Lucas, but true to form, you can find a “quirkier” stay in the fascinating town. Stay in one of the Set in Stone cabins right at the edge of Lucas, or rent one of the Airbnb's, one of which is right across from the Garden of Eden. You can even stay at Horseshoe Lodge, a converted old folks' home.

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