On a balmy night in 2006, on the back verandah of a face-brick suburban home in a town called Tully, a group of men stood around a few oversized amphibian limbs made of polystyrene, debating the anatomy of frogs. Roger, who was charged with carving the creature, defended against accusations that the left foot was on backwards. Ron was less than convinced.
In some ways the whole thing was an absurd assignment. But driven by a powerful desire to put the small town of Tully on the map. Because ever since cars began crisscrossing the country, regional towns have had to compete for drive-by business, and ‘big things’ – a big banana, big pineapple, big prawn – have meant the difference between visitors stopping here or there.
But how relevant are big things today? With regional tourism opening again, this article examines their role in our tourism infrastructure.
There are currently over 150 of these enormous beasts are scattered across the country. Some are furry, like the Big Merino in Goulburn, others have razor sharp claws. At the Dadswells Bridge in Victoria there is a giant Koala with piercing red eyes that glow at night. Incredibly, in Taree, a big Oyster has laid claim to the roof of a used car dealership.
With so many of these oversized installations strewn about you might think they form part of a national tourism initiative. But big things are a grassroots phenomenon, each one dreamt up and built by small groups of passionate people. Most depict crops or exports, a reminder that in regional Australia, industry and identity aren’t easily separated.