The Big Merino at Goulburn NSW

If you’ve ever been on a road travel in australia, you’ll be familiar with the phenomenon of “big things” – sheep, cattle, fruits, vegetables and other objects, primarily to attract tourists to leave the road and spend their money in small towns.

Two brothers from Hungary in the 1950s. They owned several businesses in Goulburn, including service stations and restaurants close to the motorway, and in 1985 founded the Grand Merino to encourage drivers to stop.

Attila Mokany died in November 2014 in Buderim, Queensland, aged 68. His son, also named Attila Mokany, said his father’s construction was certainly effective at attracting visitors. “I mean, how could you miss seeing a 50-foot merino along the highway?” he says.

A Fairfax report from December 1988 says the ram attracted 1.2m visits in its first year, putting to rest criticism that it would be an unsuccessful eyesore.

“It is probably not everybody’s cup of tea,” Louis Mokany said at the time. “The general public decides in the end. The general public does like it because we are doing very well.”

Attila Mokany Jnr tells Guardian Australia: “The Big Merino wasn’t embraced by all of Goulburn residents, that’s for sure

“I think the lifelike detail, including its rear end, raised quite a few eyebrows, but with a great deal of controversy came a great deal of publicity. Personally, as a 15-year-old at the time, I just laughed.”

The Mokany brothers went on to build the Big Prawn at Ballina in 1989 and the Big Oyster at Taree the following year. A proposal for a Big Murray Grey, a breed of cattle, in Albury did not gain traction in the town.

“To choose [a favourite] is quite hard as they were all so amazingly built, with such great detail,” says Mokany Jr. “The Big Prawn and the Big Oyster were pretty amazing – but the Big Merino would have to be my favourite.”

Jacqui Kennedy has been travelling around Australia on a postie bike for two and a half years, and estimates she has seen 217 big things. She maintains a blog documenting her journey, with photos of all the things she has visited.

“I suppose I could be considered an expert. I’ve been hunting them down for a few years now,” she says.

She reckons she has about 100 to go: “I’m on the road again now. I’m going to do a second lap of Australia just so I can get the rest of them.”

Just how “big” a “thing” has to be to be a “big thing” and not simply a statue is a matter of perspective, she says, pointing out that the Big Ant at Broken Hill is much bigger than a real ant.

“Then the Big Dinosaur [at Yarrawonga] was close to its actual size, but it’s still rather big … The Big Goanna [in Coober Pedy, South Australia] is only double its normal size, but that’s all they could afford to put up.”

Kennedy says such monuments were erected to encourage passing motorists to make a detour for the photo opportunity – and perhaps spend some money in the town. “If a small town is losing business … then putting in a big thing is not the worst thing they could do,” she says.

One of her favorite events, the Golden Rubber boots in Talley, is to attract people to the “purpose-specific” freeway to enter Tully. “This is outstanding,” she said. “You can climb inside, that’s great.”

Less successful big potatoes Robertson, Kennedy refers to “dung.”

“It’s extremely mediocre,” she said. “A lot of big things – big bananas, big pineapples, something like that – they have souvenir shops and things around them.” Dung is a big middle field of dung.

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