12 American towns' unusual claims to fame
Some self-proclaimed titles are pretty well justified. Hawaii, for instance, is called the "Macadamia Nut Capital of the World." Considering the Aloha State is said to grow 90% of the world's supply, we think it's an apt description.
Other claims are not so black and white. Biloxi, Mississippi is often referred to as the "Seafood Capital of the World," but so is Calabash, North Carolina and Crisfield, Maryland. Which place deserves the nickname most? We'll leave that up to seafood lovers to hash out.
We take a look at 12 towns in the good ol' U.S.A. that have found a way to differentiate themselves by "capitalizing" on what makes them unique, and well, a little unusual.
The Lost Luggage Capital of the World
Ever wonder what happens to all of the lost airline luggage that goes unclaimed? Much of it winds up at the Unclaimed Baggage Center located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Even with today's advanced baggage tracking technology, .005% of all checked luggage is permanently lost. That may seem like a small amount but it translates into an average of 7,000 lost luggage items that the Unclaimed Baggage Center is able to buy each day. Since Scottsboro houses the only store in the county that sells unclaimed baggage and the store is the size of a city block, we think it is indeed the "Lost Luggage Capital of the World."
The Fire Hydrant Capital of the World
Let's not leave Alabama just yet. Not before we take notice of another town's claim to fame: fire hydrants. Albertville owes its legacy to the Mueller Company, a leader in the manufacturing of fire hydrants. After the Albertville plant produced its one-millionth hydrant in 1989, Albertville was declared the "Hydrant Capital of the World." A polished nickel-plated hydrant on a pedestal was even erected outside of the Chamber of Commerce to commemorate the occasion.
The Rolle Bolle Capital of the World
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, dozens of people take to the court next to the Silver Dollar Bar in Ghent, Minnesota to play Rolle Bolle. Pronounced "rollie bollie", this Belgian game gives a nod to horseshoes, bowling and bocce ball. The point of the game is to roll a small wheel closest to a stake at the other end of the court. If you wanted to try your hand at this outdoor game, you likely won't be able to purchase a set at your local sporting goods store. The little-known pastime is only played in a handful of places in the U.S. For more on this small (population: 300-or-so) town's sport of choice, read this article by Steve Hemmingsen.
The Fruitcake Capital of the World
Claxton was incorporated in 1911 and named for Kate Claxton (1878-1924), a popular actress at the time. However, today, it has another passion: fruitcake. Home to both the Claxton Bakery and the Georgia Fruitcake Company, each year millions of pounds of fruitcake are produced and shipped worldwide from this small community in Georgia. Texas residents, however, have their own "fruitcake" bragging rights. Located in the city of Corsicana, the Collin Street Bakery has been making it's world-famous DeLuxe Fruitcake since 1896.
The Cowboy Capital of the World
According to the Bandera County Convention and Visitor's Bureau web site, "Bandera embodies the cowboy in its strong rodeo tradition. Even today you'll often see horses tied to downtown hitching posts. Bandera County dude ranches offer a taste of the cowboy lifestyle with horseback riding, trail rides, and chuckwagon meals. Secluded cabins tucked away in the hills throughout the county are perfect for watching wildlife, listening to the birds, and gazing at the stars. At local honky-tonks, the music is lively, the dance floor is full, and the beverages are cold." Enough said.
The Honeymoon Capital of the World
Yes, we know it's not completely American -- half of the Falls are Canadian -- but we decided to keep this pick on our list anyway. The destination's reputation as the "Honeymoon Capital of the World" dates back to the early 1900s, when that phrase began to be used in brochures and advertising. Today, the American side of Niagara Falls welcomes more than two million visitors each year, with approximately 90,000 being newlyweds and honeymooners from around the world. Tens of thousands more head to the other side of the falls, where many pick up their Official City of Niagara Falls Honeymoon Certificate.
Cow Chip Throwing Capital of the World
Cow chips (a.k.a. dried cow dung) were an integral part of the pioneer experience. Settlers relied on them as fuel to cook food and heat their homes. Each fall, families would take their wagons to the pasture and load up on cow chips for the coming winter. Family members soon began competing against each other to see who could toss the chips into the wagon with the most accuracy. Fast forward to 1970 and the Town of Beaver turned that storied pastime into an actual sport and now bears the title "Cow Chip Throwing Capital of the World." Home to the annual World Championship Cow Chip Throw, people travel from all around the globe to see and even participate in the Cow Chip throwing contest, held the third weekend of April in Beaver, each year.
The Halloween Capital of the World
According to Anoka: The Halloween Capital of the World web site, "Anoka, Minnesota is believed to be the first city in the United States to put on a Halloween celebration to divert its youngsters from Halloween pranks. When Anokans awoke to find their cows roaming Main Street, their windows soaped and their outhouses tipped over, they decided something had to be done." So, in 1920 civic leaders suggested the idea of a giant celebration including a parade of costumed children. The town's love affair with the October holiday has been going strong ever since. Each year, multiple festivities take place during the week leading up to the big day.
The Jell-O Capital of the World
Le Roy, New York
Located in upstate New York, this picturesque village is known as much for its tree-lined streets and stately Victorian homes as it is for being the birthplace of "America's most famous dessert." In 1897, Pearle Wait, a carpenter in Le Roy experimented with gelatin and came up with a fruit-flavored dessert which his wife, May, named Jell-O. He tried to market his product but he lacked the capital and the experience. In 1899, he sold his formula to a fellow townsman for the sum of $450. Jello-O would go on to become one of Le Roy's most important industries. Jell-O devotees who want to make a pilgrimage to Le Roy, can visit the Jell-O Gallery museum and see everything from memorabilia to past commercials.
The Earmuff Capital of the World
It is said that Chester Greenwood's ears turned "chalky white, beet red and deep blue" in the cold. It was this annoyance that motivated a 15-year-old Farmington boy to invent earmuffs. He called his contraption "The Greenwood Champion Ear Protector" and it proved an instant hit. Three years and a couple of improvements later, the United States Patent Office awarded him a patent. It was 1877 and Greenwood was only 18-years-old. He soon established a factory and by 1883, he was producing 30,000 muffs a year. Thus Farmington became known as the Earmuff Capital of the World. If you're in the area, there is a parade that celebrates Greenwood's birthday the first Saturday in December where you can see local police cruisers in the parade decorated as giant earmuffs.
The Carpet Capital of the World
The Dalton Convention & Visitors Bureau puts it this way: "Dalton, Georgia is known as the 'Carpet Capital of the World,' and for good reason. More than 90% of the functional carpet produced in the world today is made within a 65-mile radius of the city. " The carpet and rug industry is the economic engine that drives this Northwest Georgia area, with nearly two billion square yards of carpet shipped annually. If you're in the market for floor covering, it's also home (not surprisingly) to a large number of carpet outlets.
Ice Cream Capital of the World
Le Mars, Iowa
Designated the "Ice Cream Capital of the World" in 1994 by the Iowa General Assembly, Le Mars is home to ice cream maker Blue Bunny. "Today, more ice cream is produced in Le Mars by a single company than in any other city in the world!," the town's web site boasts. The town is also home to an ice cream museum, an almost 10-foot-tall ice cream sundae statue, a replica of an old-fashioned ice cream parlor and dozens of street banners bearing ice cream cones