Do not ignore those huge blue billboards next to Interstate 70 on either side of exit 206 proclaiming that “the world’s largest Czech egg” resides in this town.
Take the bait, get off the interstate and “Czech” out the huge Fiberglas Easter egg squatting in a city park a few blocks from the main drag.
This tourist attraction/community project has been incubating for years. The egg was “laid” here in August 2012.
The town of about 800 folks that calls itself the “Czech capital of Kansas” has been scrambling in recent months to finish painting it. When the 7,000-pound hollow orb — 25 feet tall and 15 feet in diameter — is completely painted, it will stand upright in a gazebo.
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Christine Slechta, the art teacher for the town’s schools, created the egg’s traditional Czech-themed design in a colorful style called “kraslice.” You can see what the finished design will look like on a real egg display kept at the town’s city hall.
You can also follow its progress on Facebook.
“The purpose of the egg was to bring tourism into town. And it’s doing that,” says Jerry Florian, president of the Chamber of Commerce who owns Grandma’s Soda Shop and Diner with his wife, Virginia.
“Even when we first moved it in we had people coming in that day from off the highway just to take pictures of it. It’s just drawing people in from all over the place.”
As chamber president, Florian helped find a company that could actually build an egg so huge it looks like it was laid by a dinosaur.
“We were having trouble finding someone who could do the whole thing without it costing us a fortune,” he says.
Florian’s son suggested Hess Services Inc. in Hays, Kan., which, among other things, builds Fiberglas tanks for oil fields.
The company’s owner enthusiastically accepted the challenge, says Florian. “He did it for cost, didn’t make any money on the thing at all,” he says.
Though the town markets the egg as the “world’s largest Czech egg,” it won’t get that title officially certified by the Guinness Book of World Records until the painting job is done.
“Nobody else has got a hand-painted egg that big,” says Florian. “We have researched all over the whole world ... and there’s an egg bigger than this in Canada but it’s not hand-painted.”
Meanwhile, the town awaits and welcomes visitors who want to see the project in progress. On a recent weekend art teacher Slechta led a crew of high schoolers who climbed to the top of ladders and scaffolds to work on it.
“This used to be a hopping little town,” says Florian, who moved here in 1969. “All these stores on Main Street were full.”
He’s starting to see people moving back to Wilson, though, and that has him egg-cited.
(Last pun. Promise.)
You must visit him at his soda shop on Avenue E and try Virginia’s traditional Czech kolache pastries filled with fruit and other yummy fillings.
Stop by on May 24 when the town hosts this year’s Al’s Testicle Festival.
That’s a whole other story.
‘World’s Largest Czech Egg’
You can see it anytime at Ed & LaVange Shiroky Park and at this year’s Wilson After Harvest Czech Festival, July 23-25.
Info: Wilson City Hall, 785-658-2272