World's Heaviest Ball of Twine - Atlas Obscura

World's Heaviest Ball of Twine

Highland, Wisconsin

Tirelessly maintained by a Wisconsin man named JFK. 

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The United States is filled with controversies, but none quite as quirky and bizarre as the debate over who holds the world record for the largest ball of twine. Both Darwin, Minnesota, and Cawker City, Kansas, claim to have the largest in terms of length and width, but there is one twine ball title that goes undisputed: the world’s heaviest ball of twine, which can be found hidden in the middle of northern Wisconsin.

At a weight of more than 24,000 pounds, the World’s Heaviest Ball of Twine was constructed by James Frank Kotera, nicknamed “JFK.” Over the course of more than 40 years, JFK spent tens of thousands of hours wrapping twine into a ball in an isolated house in Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin.

Since 1979, JFK spent three days a week working at a nearby dump and the other four days at home wrapping garbage bags full of twine in gigantic circles. In addition to the world’s heaviest twine ball, JFK also constructed “Junior,” a ball made of string that weighs 47 pounds in honor of Kotera’s birth year, 1947. Kotera was born on February 2, which inspired the self-given nickname of “Groundhog.”

People who visited the ball of twine would be treated to a casual conversation with JFK, who would insist that he never got tired of wrapping the twine and plans to never stop until he dies. According to JFK, he used to be a drunkard, but that all changed in 1979, when he had a conversation with God who encouraged him to stop drinking and turn to twine. Ever since that conversation, JFK’s painstaking effort gave him the grounds to claim that, in terms of weight, he truly has the world’s biggest balls.

JFK died of cancer in January 2023, at age 75. At that time, his twine ball weighed 24,100 pounds. Terri Nelson, a neighbor and friend, was determined to preserve his life’s work. A few months after his death, a team of volunteers moved the ball from JFK’s home to the town of Highland, where it will sit outside of the town hall. Thanks to donations from locals and visitors alike, a structure is being built to display the ball of twine and protect it from the elements.

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