Ed Solonyka began to think big years before the World Wide Web even existed.
He was a young geological engineer from Winnipeg, then working out of Toronto, and it was during periodic runs back and forth between home and work that he first became fascinated with size.
The Big Nickel in Sudbury.
The Big Goose in Wawa.
The Big Moose in Dryden.
The Big Muskie in Kenora.
Solonyka is now 60 and working in Sudbury for the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines. But he is also proprietor of perhaps the most Canadian website in cyberspace ( ) and made contact after a recent mention here of the Jumbo the Elephant statue in St. Thomas, Ont.
Solonyka began his site devoted to unusual road marks almost as a lark, but soon he began fielding contributions from across the country. At last count, he has almost 900 such oddities listed and has reached a point where he's having to establish separate subgroups for such listings as "Planes on Pedestals" and "Roadside Attractions that No Longer Exist."
Soon he may have to carve off the moose, there being so many communities that have put up moose statues in the hopes of catching the attention of travellers who would otherwise just whiz by without so much as a second glance.
Some would call these roadside attractions works of art, some would call them kitsch; Solonyka makes no such judgments - he merely adds them to the ever-growing list.
Recent arrivals include photographs of a giant red paper clip from Kipling, Sask., an enormous watering can from Victoria, Alix the Alligator from Alix, Alta., a Métis fiddler and oxcart from Davidson, Sask., a giant frog from Regina and a huge letter "G" from Grayson, Sask.
If there appears to be a preponderance of roadside attractions from the Prairies, it is because there is a preponderance.
Most intriguing of all is the matter of size.
"The World's Largest" describes hundreds of the attractions: A gold pan in Burwash Landing, Yukon; Inukshuks in Hay River, NWT and Rankin Inlet, Nunavut; cross-country skis at 100 Mile House, B.C.; a hockey stick and puck in Duncan, on Vancouver Island; a fly rod in Houston, B.C.; champagne being poured into a glass in Kelowna, B.C.; a cuckoo clock in Kimberly, B.C.; a bathtub in Nanaimo, B.C.; a mallard duck in Andrew, Alta.; a beaver in Beaverlodge, Alta.; a skunk in Beiseker, Alta.; "Susie" the softball in Chauvin, Alta.; a bee in Falher, Alta.; a huge lapel pin in Willingdon, Alta.; a badminton racket in St. Albert, Alta.; a tomahawk in Cut Knife, Sask.; a plover in Chaplin, Sask.; a pig in Englefeld, Sask.; a swing in Langenburg, Sask.; an oil can in Rocanville, Sask.; "Ernie" the Turtle in Turtleford, Sask.; a grasshopper in Wilkie, Sask.; a tricycle in Altona, Man.; a curling rock in Arborg, Man.; a sturgeon in Dominion City, Man.; a rose in Inglis, Man.; a purple martin colony in Neepawa, Man.; a Coke can in Portage la Prairie, Man.; a snowman in Beardmore, Ont.; a huge pencil in Bracebridge, Ont.; an apple in Colborne, Ont.; binoculars in Dorset, Ont.; a baseball in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.; a poppy in Baie Comeau, Que.; a fish hook in Blackville, N.B.; "Sam" the Atlantic salmon in Campbellton, N.B.; an axe in Nackawic, N.B.; a lobster in Shediac, N.B.; a massive maple leaf in Millville, N.B.; big blueberries in St. George, N.B., and Oxford, N.S.; an illuminated fiddle in Sydney, N.S.; a bowling pin in Dartmouth, N.S.; a big potato in O'Leary, PEI as well as big potatoes in Fredericton and Maugerville, N.B.; and a giant squid in Glovers Harbour, Nfld.
And this, please understand, is but a partial list.
Solonyka does admit to his favourites: "I'm of Ukrainian heritage, so I sort of like the giant garlic sausages in Mundare, the giant perogy in Glendon and, of course, the giant Easter egg at Vegreville."
All three are in Alberta. Solonyka's choice for most impressive, however, is found in Altona, Man. - an eight-storey-high artist's easel that comes complete with a reproduction of Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" painted with 17 gallons of paint over a canvas constructed of 24 sheets of ¾-inch plywood.
In the United States, roadside sculpture has been described as "a uniquely American phenomenon" - but those who would make such a statement must never have driven north.
On a per capita basis, Canada, surely, has the World's Largest Collection of World's Largest Roadside Attractions.
Karal Ann Marling, a professor of art history at the University of Minnesota, has written much on the phenomenon and believes that the fact such assemblages are directed toward the road, not the property owner, is "an indication of Americans' willingness to share."
Fair enough for America, but not up here.
Up here in this country, such roadside idiosyncrasies are far more an indication that Canadians - or at least their communities, usually small - are simply asking to be noticed.
And, as Ed Solonyka says, in this country that often describes itself as insecure, "size matters."