Some people say that Big Thing tourist icons are dead, old-hat, gone the way of the Leyland Brothers, but not the Seeker! And, not the citizens of the small Northern NSW town of Ballina…
Nay, we say Long Live the Big Things of Australia – and we have a Big Prawn as proof that Big Things are alive and kicking (well, not so much alive as inanimate and made of concrete, but big, never-the-less).
The Big Prawn has always been the premier Big Thing attraction on any decent East Coast road trip itinerary since first constructed in 1989.
Chosen as an icon to represent Ballina’s fishing and prawn industry heritage, the giant prawn overlooked the Pacific Highway from its perch atop of a tourist centre and service station, but over the years the Big Prawn fell into disrepair and was, by 2009, a pale, sun-bleached version of its former self and facing certain demolition.
However, when the local council announced the prawn would go to the big ocean in the sky, such was the outrage of the fair citizens of Ballina that a Facebook page was started to save the Big Prawn and by 2012 an announcement had been made by the new owner of the prawn site, Bunnings, that this Australian icon would live on.
The prawn was given $400,000 makeover, including a new tail designed by Wayne Johnston from 3D Theme Concepts who has experience in these matters being the owner of 9m-tall Giant Miner which he built at a putt-putt golf course at Ballarat in Victoria.
The Big Prawn has now been re-tailed, re-painted and re-homed outside the new Ballina Bunnings store and has, by all accounts, reinvigorated the tourist cache of the coastal town – inspiring the inaugural Prawn Festival in 2013 and, after an absence of 10 years, has reappeared in the region’s annual tourist guide.
The Big Prawn is back in business and ready to inspire a new generation of selfie-snapping travellers.
The Big Things of Oz website had this to say of the revamped prawn:
“I’d seen a lot of seafood related big things and they’d always fallen short of the wow factor. Well not Mr Prawn, he exceeded every expectation.”
The Lesser known Small Big Pineapple of Ballina
Meanwhile, while the Big Prawn has been lavished with attention, on River Street, Ballina, is the lesser-known smaller Big Pineapple at the BP service station.
The Big Pineapple is a much smaller version of the famous Big Pineapple of Woombye, Sunshine Coast constructed in 1971 and boasting a train ride as part of its attraction.
Little is known of the smaller Big Pineapple of Ballina, and given it is not as famous as its crustacean neighbour, the Seeker fears that, without a little publicity, it may be at risk of suffering the fate of other Big Pineapples such as the smaller Big Pineapple of Gympie which was sadly demolished in 2008 or the Big Pineapple of Honolulu, a water tower constructed in 1928 atop a pineapple cannery and tragically dismantled in 1993 when the cannery closed down
With its placement on 100-foot steel legs atop the cannery, the pineapple’s tip was nearly 200 feet above sea and was therefore certified by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Service as a beacon to arriving ships and—when floodlit at night—as a signal to airplanes.
The Big Pineapple of Ballina has been reviewed by the Big Things of Oz as an 11/25 star Big Thing, (rating behind the Big Prawn which received 16/25 stars) with the pineapple’s accessibility (you can climb inside) receiving 5/5 stars, upping its overall score.
The Seeker hopes the good people of Ballina, having proved they are committed to protecting our Big Thing heritage, do not forget this smaller, but equally kitsch, Big Thing the next time the tourist brochure is being discussed.