Darwin, Minn. – In the home of the giant ball of twine, they love "Weird Al" Yankovic.
And why not? The musical parodist helped put their town on the map with his 1989 song, "The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota."
Now, this Meeker County town of 350 residents about 60 miles west of the Twin Cities has repaid the favor.
Just down the main drag from where the 11-ton ball of twine rests in its specially built pagoda, the mayor of Darwin last week installed a street sign designating an unmarked dirt roadway as "Weird Alley."
"We wanted to show appreciation for what he's done for Darwin and the twine ball," Mayor Josh Johnson said Monday. "We're fans, just like everybody is," he said. "His appeal is universal. He's a good artist to be tied to."
The twine ball, as many Minnesotans know, was created single-handedly by local resident Francis A. Johnson (no relation to the mayor), between 1950 and 1979. Measuring 11 feet tall, nearly 13 feet in diameter and 40 feet around, it long held the title as the largest ball of twine ever rolled by an individual.
But according to Guinness World Records, it was surpassed — ever so slightly — by a twine ball created in Texas in the 1990s.
Nonetheless, the twine ball has become Darwin's signature attraction, drawing 100 to 150 visitors a day during the summer, according to the mayor. And many of them are Weird Al fans, he said. The twine ball's guest book — a spiral notebook stashed in an oversized mailbox — contains recent greetings from fans as far away as Colorado, California and British Columbia.
Yankovic himself visited the twine ball in 1996; the Twine Ball Museum has pictures documenting the trip.
A contingent of about 20 Darwinians plans to attend Weird Al's concert at the State Fair grandstand Tuesday night. Johnson said they plan to bring the musician some Twine Ball T-shirts and they hope for a chance to say hello in person.
That would make a good yarn.
"It's really exciting for us," Johnson said. "We appreciate all the attention he's shown the town."
As Weird Al himself said in his song:
"I've been all around this great big world and I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather go ta/Than the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota."