There are a lot of reasons to visit Madison County, Indiana—including the fact that it has the world’s largest ball of paint. While this might seem silly, it’s actually a lot of fun to stop by the shed where the 5,000-pound ball hangs from the ceiling and apply your own coat of paint—Jimmy Kimmel and the Oak Ridge Boys did it, so why shouldn’t you?
Be an artist
This hobby/obsession is just part of the charm of the small Midwestern towns that make up the county, which also houses Gaither Family Resources, a museum for those who love gospel music, and Good’s Candy & Ice Cream Shop, where there’s a surprise at the bottom of every cone. Better yet, it is home to a number of the restaurants on Indiana’s Tenderloin Trail—a driving trail you can follow to find the best breaded pork tenderloin in the state—a food that, along with sugar cream pie, is an important part of Hoosier heritage.
So back to the ball of paint. In 1977, Mike Carmichael and his son painted a baseball with a coat of paint…and they just kept on doing it. Soon the ball took on a life of its own and became a roadside attraction. Fast forward to today, and the ball, now more than 14 feet around, has made the Guinness Book of World Records twice!
Wanting to share in the fun, Mike and his wife, Glenda, welcome visitors to the specially built shed in Alexandria, IN, to see the ball which is now covered with more than 25,886 coats of paint. And not only can you see it, but you can paint it by just picking up a roller, choosing a color (the most popular is blue) and going to town. You not only get a certificate for your work, but can also sign the wall, leaving your artistry behind to be painted over by another.
Sing a song
Gaither Family Resources, also in Alexandria, pays tribute to gospel music’s most famous recording artists, Bill and Gloria Gaither. More than four decades of Gaither memorabilia can be found in this museum, which follows the journey of Bill from his first group—the Gaither Trio, which he formed with his brother and sister—to his partnership with Gloria and many other musical artists throughout the years. Not only can you see the many Grammy and Dove awards that the pair—named as Christian Songwriters of the Century—have won, but you can also visit the recording studio where they now record the award-winning Homecoming video series.
What I found really interesting is just how diverse their talents are; not only have the pair written and produced more than 700 songs, a dozen musicals and hundreds of recordings together, but Gloria Gaither has also written more than 40 books and created scripts for more than 100 videos.
Eat all the food
Speaking of accomplishments, I’ve got to hand it to the people of Indiana for introducing me to the breaded pork tenderloin; something so popular in the area that Indiana Foodways Alliance has actually established a Tenderloin Trail so that you can visit all of the restaurants that serve it. I sampled the massive sandwich at The Tin Plate in Elwood, IN, and now I’m hooked. Named for the tin plate factory that used to stand across the street, the family-owned restaurant, owned by father Pat Rice and son Patrick Rice, is known far and wide for its tenderloin—last year they sold 19,705 of the sandwiches.
If you’re tenderloined-out, you can’t get more authentic than Catellos’s Mozzarella Bar in Pendleton, IN for real Italian food. Chef Catello Avagnale from Naples, Italy, makes his own cheeses right in the back of the restaurant as well as pastas to die for. You might want to make a reservation, though; the restaurant only seats 34.
And if you’re in search of something sweet, I highly recommend Good’s Candy & Ice Cream Shop in Anderson, IN. Not only will you find a huge assortment of handmade chocolates and a wide variety of specialty popcorn, but also incredible handmade ice cream. You can get it in a cup, but I’d suggest a cone—the massive malted milk ball in the bottom tops off the tasty treat.
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