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Unveiling Indiana’s Biggest Attraction: The World’s Largest Ball of Paint
I recently had an opportunity to visit the World’s Largest Ball of Paint, a unique and quirky roadside attraction nestled in the heart of Indiana’s corn country in a town called Alexandria. I had no idea what to expect before arriving, but I sure do know it wasn’t what I found!
My imagination showed me a vision of an open field with a lone round ball of paint and weeds growing around it. But what I found was an epic, multicolored marvel, holding a Guinness World Record for its sheer size and audacity.
This splendored ball of paint isn’t just a ball; it’s a living, evolving work of art that embodies the spirit of community and creativity in the most colorful way possible. And this may shock you: It’s not even shaped like a ball!
Table of Contents
The Genesis of the Paintball
How it all began in Alexandria, Indiana
The world’s largest ball of paint had its humble beginnings in the late 1970s. What started as a simple children’s game of coating a baseball with layers of paint soon spiraled into a colorful, record-breaking attraction.
It all began when paint shop employee and Alexandria resident Mike Carmichael accidentally dropped a baseball into a bucket of paint while playing catch with a high school buddy in the 60s. After painting a layer a day throughout high school, he put the original project to rest.
It wasn’t until years later that he and his wife Glenda decided to start a new project that the current paintball was born. When you visit, Mike will proudly show off the photo on display, showing their then three-year-old son painting a single coat of blue house paint on an old baseball. After that first coat of paint, they added coats of paint daily, and the ball began its slow journey to fame.
The idea caught on, and friends and neighbors began contributing their own layers of paint to the ever-growing sphere. Word spread and curious visitors from near and far joined in the fun, each applying a fresh, new coat of paint.
Guinness World Records recognition
The World’s Largest Ball of Paint has earned a place in both the Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley’s Believe It or Not. But how did they even know this epic project was happening?
In 1977, the Carmichaels reached out to the Guinness Book of World Records, inquiring about the possibility of having their giant ball of paint officially recognized.
After careful consideration and evaluation, Guinness accepted their request and established a category for the “World’s Largest Ball of Paint.” In order to maintain the integrity of the record, specific rules were set, such as recording the exact number of layers and keeping a detailed log of each participant.
The ball continued to grow, and by 2004, it had amassed over 18,000 layers of paint, making it the largest in the world. Guinness officially awarded the Carmichaels with their record, and the World’s Largest Ball of Paint became a recognized global attraction.
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Not long after achieving this milestone, Ripley’s Believe It or Not took notice of the Carmichaels’ unique creation. Ripley’s, known for its collection of the world’s most bizarre and extraordinary artifacts, added the ball to their roster of oddities and curiosities.
The custom-built ball house (which I call a barn) proudly displays several editions of Ripley and Guinness books, showing the world record holder in print. Dig a little deeper, and you can see numerous articles where the bizarre artifact has been included in the local newspapers and beyond!
You may be wondering what a visit to the Ball of Paint might look like. It’s a rolling good time, I’ll tell ya!
My Visit to Paint the Ball
As we pulled up to the Carmichael home, I saw a tidy tan-colored barn with brown trim and a cute little porch with benches. A sign in the yard declared that the giant black dog approaching to say hello was friendly.
It also told us her name was Hailey, and sure enough, she ambled over to say hello and get some loving and petting from her new friends. As we finished lavishing our attention on Hailey, Mike opened up the barn and escorted us inside.
We caught our first glimpse of this wondrous orb as Mike opened the door. The ball of paint hangs in giant splendor in the center of the room. An industrial hook with a scale holds the giant cocoon-shaped ball as it dangles from a steel beam as part of the steel framework within the barn.
The ball is so large that Mike had to raise the ceiling in the center to accommodate the space needed under it to get the paint all the way around. The reconstructed ceiling proves the Carmichaels will stop at nothing to continue expanding and housing the ball.
After a quick tour of the room, Mike told us to look at the paint colors and make a selection. While we chose, he got busy writing the number of coats on the ball. We enjoyed painting the 28,672nd coat of paint on the ball. When we arrived, the ball was yellow. Care to guess as to what color we chose to paint her?
The Art of Adding Layers
We asked Mike if there was a pink option, and he replied, deadpan, “Nope. Fresh out.” I was horrified because, of course, I needed to color that sucker in my own color – pink! He then showed us the many five-gallon latex paint buckets lined up on the side of the room, and I was relieved to see plenty of pink left!
Mike began dipping rollers and handing them to us. My friend Dannelle and I rolled and rolled and rolled. Just as our roller began to dry up, Mike quickly handed over a new, freshly dipped roller. It was clear he’d done this a few times!
After 15-20 minutes of rolling paint, giggling, and exchanging rollers, we had completed our mission. The formerly yellow ball was now a delightful shade of pastel pink.
When asked, Mike said he gets his paint at low cost from local paint shops – sometimes because the color is a bit off or returned from a customer. He generally chooses exterior paints but isn’t picky. If it’s cheap or free, he’s on it!
The Incredible Stories Behind Some of the Layers
While inside the barn, take a glance around the room, and you’ll spot countless signatures adorning every wall.
The World’s Largest Ball of Paint has attracted a wide range of visitors, including a few famous folks who have contributed to its many different color layers. The Ball of Paint has been featured on Jimmy Kimmel ‘Live’ and CBS Sunday Morning, among other TV talk shows over the years.
Countless number of well-known people have participated in the painting fun. Listing them all would be all but impossible, but just for good fun, here are some notable people who have added their brushstrokes to this unique attraction:
- David Letterman: The iconic late-night talk show host and comedian stopped at the World’s Largest Ball of Paint during his travels and added his own signature and layer of paint.
- Tom Green: Canadian comedian and actor Tom Green visited the ball during his road trips and left his mark by adding a layer of paint.
- Chris Gethard: Comedian, actor, and host of “The Chris Gethard Show” participated in painting the ball and even featured the experience on his television show.
- George Wendt: Best known for his role as Norm Peterson on the TV series “Cheers,” George Wendt made a memorable visit to the ball and added his contribution.
- Various Musicians: Over the years, several musicians and bands passing through Indiana, such as members of local and touring groups, have taken the opportunity to paint a layer or sign the ball.
- The Oak Ridge Boys. Glenda once estimated that the value of these famous musicians’ outfits would exceed her entire year’s clothing budget!
- Gaither Family. Alexandria, Indiana, is also home to the Gaither Family, and Mr. Carmichael shared with me that Mr. Bill Gaither himself has brought many a guest to join in the fun by painting a layer on the ball.
- Local and Touring Artists: Many artists, both local and international, have added their creative touches to the ball, often incorporating unique designs or messages into their contributions.
Your ball painting experience isn’t complete without leaving your signature showing you’ve been there. Imagine my excitement knowing I would be signing my name on the wall in the same room with all those big names.
I tried to contain my excitement. So many people have contributed to this amazing attraction that the walls have no space left for signatures, so the Carmichaels now have visitors sign a large white panel. As the panels fill, they mount them to the ceiling. When you visit, be sure to look for my name!
Housing the World’s Largest Ball of Paint
The construction of a shelter around the World’s Largest Ball of Paint was a significant community effort.
When I asked him about the barn we were standing in; Mike humbly and openly shared the story of the donations that made the barn happen. When the time came to appropriately house this modern marvel, Sherwin-Williams, along with local companies R & R Engineering and Donahue Gas, chipped in to fund the building of the Barn.
“Nine local contractors came out and framed it up in a day,” Mike proudly stated. And then he and his son, with the help of friends, went about the painstaking work of finishing up the barn. Two years later, it was complete and stands as a showcase of the strong bond and dedication of the local Alexandria, Indiana community.
Small-town America is a marvel of ingenuity, comradeship, and collaborative spirit.
The Carmichaels Give Back
The World’s Largest Ball of Paint has made Alexandria, Indiana, and the Carmichael family famous. However, many people don’t know how the Carmichaels have given back to the neighbors and friends who support their offbeat attraction.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. says, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” We all remember 2020, and the challenge and controversy in every corner of America as COVID-19 overtook even the smallest and friendliest towns.
In a time when it would be easy to close oneself up, remain in the safety of his own home, and wait out the pandemic, Mr. Carmichael took a different route. He chose to sprinkle some sunshine into the lives of his friends, neighbors, and community members.
It began with just a few small cutouts of a sunshine mounted on a small metal dowel. Next, Mike took some beautiful bright paints and painted those sunshine shapes in vivid yellows, oranges, and reds, then topped them off with the happiest of happy faces. Then he delivered them into the yards of some of those having the most challenging time throughout COVID-19.
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Imagine waking in the morning to find a surprise. A sunny yellow reminder that good times will come again. Mike quietly said, “Some people just needed an extra ray of sunshine, and I could give that to them.”
A note from Mr. Carmichael himself accompanied each sunshine. His kindness and caring spirit can be seen all around the Anderson-Madison County area.
I had noticed them in yards as I made my way from Michigan through Indiana and wondered about their origin. I was tickled with delight to pull up in front of his home and see a yard full of these rays of sunshine in multiple sizes, and I was even more excited to purchase one to bring back home to grace my yard as a reminder of the hope of days ahead.
A Tribute and a Turning of the Page
A few minutes into our visit, we learned that Mike’s wife, Glenda, had recently passed away. Still, Mike plans to continue maintaining and expanding the ball, now with the help of their granddaughter, Taylor, whose cheerful smile and joyful presence in the ball barn shows how happy she is to be preserving the family legacy.
We wrapped up our visit to the World’s Largest Ball of Paint by purchasing a commemorative t-shirt. It seemed wrong to leave with just a tee, so we donned our new treasures and rolled around the ball of paint while wearing them.
Taylor had us sign the log book, recorded our color choice for this layer, and handed over the certificates, declaring us a part of this fantastic legacy of roadside oddities and good, old-fashioned American fun.
Between the certificate and the t-shirt rolled in paint, I am confident that I have am woven into the fabric of history around this amazing and unique masterpiece.
Planning Your Visit to the World’s Largest Ball of Paint
One might wonder how much it would cost to enjoy this fun event. I am delighted to report that you can paint the ball for free! Please make an appointment before stopping in.
Address: 10696 N. 200 W., Alexandria, IN
Directions: From Alexandria, drive west two miles on Hwy 28. Turn left (south) onto N. 200 W. Drive across the train tracks, then go straight through the stop sign. You’ll soon see the World’s Largest Ball of Paint sign on the left.
Hours: Please call ahead for an appointment. Local health policies may affect hours and access.
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FAQ About the World’s Largest Ball of Paint
How big is the world’s largest ball of paint?
It all started back on January 1, 1977. With his endless sense of adventure, Mike decided it was a great idea to hand his toddler son a paintbrush and tell him, ‘Let’s give this baseball a snazzy coat of pastel blue house paint!’ (There’s an epic snapshot of that moment safely kept in the Ball House, by the way).
Little did they know that very baseball would become the nucleus of a giant beast, now measuring over 14 feet around and tipping the scales at a whopping 2.5 tons!
Where is the largest paint ball?
You can find the world’s largest ball of paint in Alexandria, Indiana, at 10696 N. 200 W. Drive. It began as an ordinary baseball and has since grown into a colossal work of art, attracting visitors from all over.
Where in Indiana is the world’s largest ball of paint?
The world’s largest ball of paint is located in Alexandria, Indiana, approximately 53 miles northeast of Indianapolis and roughly 73 miles south of Fort Wayne. This quirky attraction started as a small baseball and has grown into an impressive, multi-layered work of art.
What is the most layers on a ball of paint?
As of my last update in August 2023, the most layers on a ball of paint totaled over 28,000. You can check out this remarkable achievement at the World’s Largest Ball of Paint in Alexandria, Indiana, where visitors have contributed to its growth over the years by adding their own colorful layers.
Wrapping it all Up
A visit to the World’s Largest Ball of Paint is not just a journey to witness a record-breaking spectacle; it’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the whimsical and welcoming world of creativity and community.
This one-of-a-kind attraction in the middle of nowhere invites you to actively participate in its ever-evolving story, leaving your mark in one of the most colorful roadside attractions in the country.
Beyond the layers of paint, you’ll find the rich tapestry of human connection, artistic expression, and small-town charm that make this roadside gem unforgettable.
So, if you’re seeking an adventure that breaks the mold of traditional tourist destinations, make your way to Alexandria, Indiana, and discover the vibrant, eccentric world that revolves around the World’s Largest Ball of Paint.
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