Sumoflam Flashback: JFK the Twine Ball Man of Lake Nebagamon, WI

James Frank Kotera - JFK - The Twine Ball Man of Lake Nebagamon, WI
James Frank Kotera – JFK – The Twine Ball Man of Lake Nebagamon, WI

In this Flashback Edition of Less Beaten Paths, I take you back to August 2007 when I visited with James Frank Kotera in the town of Highlands, near Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin.  Kotera, who just refers to himself as JFK — the most famous JFK — claims to have the world’s largest ball of twine and my son and I had to see it.  And trust me, it as an out of the way drive worth taking!! (Don’t miss the video below!!!)

View Larger Map – JFK, The Twine Ball Man -8009 S. Oakdale Rd., Lake Nebagamon, WI

Satellite shot of JFK's place. The big building on the left covers his 19,000 pound twineball
Satellite shot of JFK’s place. The big building on the left houses his 19,600 pound twineball

Exact directions: From Solon Springs, WI, go north on US 53 to Wisconsin Rd. L. Turn right on L and go all the way to Rd. P. Turn left on P and head north along the east end of the lake to E. Minnesuing Rd. Turn right and drive about 2.5 miles to S. Oakdale. On the right corner you will see a small house with a bunch of flamingos and ducks on sticks in the yard. This is the place.

For those travelers who are always looking for offbeat and interesting roadside attractions, big balls of twine have always been one of the sought after treasures.  The most famous twine balls include the one on Darwin, Minnesota (Weird Al Yankovic even has a song about it).  The Darwin ball is 12 feet in diameter and weighs about 17,400 pounds.  Then there is the Cawker City, Kansas twine ball which was a community effort.  It has a 40 foot circumference and weighs 14,687 pounds.  Finally, there is one in Branson, Missouri that is 13 feet tall and has a 41 foot circumference.  It weighs in at a measly 12,000 pounds.

JFK's Twine Ball - 19,600 pounds
JFK’s Twine Ball – 19,600 pounds

JFK started his twine ball in 1979, and by the time we got there in 2007 he claimed that his ball weighed 19,680 pounds.  He gave us his “business card” at the time which explains it all…

JFK Business Card - Side One
JFK Business Card – Side One
JFK Business Card - Side Two
JFK Business Card – Side Two

During our visit, JFK explained that with a famous name like JFK he needed to do something “famous” and had heard about other twine balls.  As an employee of the Sanitation Department for the Town of Highland (as he says anyway – The only Highland in Wisconsin is 5 hours south of him), he has collected twine and assembled this ball lovingly for over 30 years.  As he gets twine ready to put on the ball, he puts it in a bag and weighs it and then adds it to the twine ball.  He records each weigh in so he has “accurate” records.

JFK's Hand Written Sign about the twine ball
One of JFK’s Hand Written Sign about him and his twine ball

As to being the “Biggest in the World”, apparently the Guinness World book of Records noted in 1993 that the Branson ball was the biggest, but it is obviously the smallest of the four noted above.  I would venture to say that JFK’s is by far the largest.  In fact, it has been 6 years since I was there and I’ll bet it now exceeds 20,000 pounds!!

Sumoflam with JFK, "Mr. Twine Ball" and "Junior" - August 2007
Sumoflam with JFK, “Mr. Twine Ball” and “Junior” – August 2007

I was so enamored with JFK and his antics, his personality, etc., that I actually did a small “documentary” video about him and interviewed him.  See the video below…music by Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours.

Here are a couple of more photos we took while there….

JFK brings out "Junior", his 40 pound twine ball
JFK brings out “Junior”, his 40 pound twine ball
JFK has a Guest Book and Comment Book in this mailbox
JFK has a Guest Book and Comment Book in this mailbox
More JFK Signage
More JFK Signage

Ultimately, this is one of those “Ultimate Must See” offbeat tourist destinations.  There are many in this country, and this is one of the best.  Thanks as well to Roadside America for the initial introduction to JFK.

Roadside assistance provided by friends at……