Sunday, July 12, 2009

World’s Largest Catsup Bottle

It’s the Tangy-est!

Today we drove to Collinsville, Illinois, for the eleventh annual World’s Largest Catsup Bottle Festival.

Here’s the short history: Sixty years ago, the local water tower was built and painted to look like a big bottle of Brooks Catsup, because in 1949 Collinsville was the home of Brooks Foods and the G. S. Suppiger Company. And yes, the Brooks bottles had this shape back then.

The water tower eventually fell into disrepair but was restored, after a spirited community effort, in 1995; it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

So they have these annual festivals to celebrate the funky roadside niftiness of the whole thing, the small town with the big 1949-style catsup bottle. Remember when catsup bottles were made of glass? Remember when Collinsville was the Brooks company’s headquarters? Remember when catsup didn’t have to vie with salsa as America’s favorite condiment? Remember when ketchup was spelled catsup?

So there is the reason to have a World’s Largest Catsup Bottle Festival—to soak for a while in the nostalgia of small-town midwestern Americana, to stroll through a vintage car show and groove to an Elvis impersonator, to watch a hotdog-eating contest, and enjoy the regal presence of the 2009 Little Princess Tomato and Sir Catsup as they mingled in the crowds with their parents.

All of this, set to the golden oldie tunes of KZQZ 1430 AM.

Remember the Pepsi Challenge taste test from the 1970s, where Pepsi would have booths at public events, like county fairs and such, serve people Coke and Pepsi in unmarked cups, and tasters were supposed to identify the better-tasting soda? As I recall, it quickly became an opportunity to simply demonstrate one’s ability to distinguish between the two.

Well, the festival today featured a “Brooks Tangy Catsup Taste Test,” where participants sampled four different catsups, with the goal of guessing which one was the Brooks. The other brands were Heinz, Hunt’s, and the local Schnuck’s store brand.

I tried it—and I won! And yes, Brooks is indeed the “tangy-est.”

And what did I win, you may ask?

I won a ribbon . . . a coupon for a trip to The Pasta House . . .

—and a free bottle of Brooks catsup!


Dunraven said...

And you even color-coordinated for the occasion!

JaneL said...

So, does The Pasta House expect you to put catsup on your pasta?

Julie said...

Hey, the whole town was "seeing red"! And did you see that Ronald McDonald even dyed his hair a rich, ketchuppy red for the occasion? (He was there doing magic tricks at 12:30.)

And I don't know what The Pasta House was thinking. Maybe the owners of that St. Louis chain have some connection to Collinsville. Or maybe they're just really civic-minded--which is cool.

Now I'm wishing we'd gone to the town's annual Horseradish Festival last June. Oh, well, there's always next year . . .

Anonymous said...

I think of those glass catsup bottles every time I look at my index finger, scarred from a broken bottle. I was just a kid--couldn't tell what was catsup and what was blood.----Karla

Julie said...

Oh, Karla, that's gross! (Just kidding.) I have the same thing with glass storm windows on doors, with a scar on my wrist to prove it! (THERE was a trip to the emergency room--and no ketchup required!)

I'm surprised that this festival didn't include any kitschy comedic references to "ketchup blood"--another true American cultural phenomenon--though they came close with their "water balloon toss," where ONE of the balloons had been filled with ketchup instead of water . . .