PURLEY, TX—After years of unsuccessful efforts to establish itself as a center of tourism, industry or Texas history, the tiny East Texas town of Purley finally put itself on the map Monday, when civic leaders unveiled the world's largest fiberglass chili dog.
The oversized wiener replica—centerpiece of Purley's campaign to become "Chili Dog Capital Of The World"—was christened at a ceremony attended by Purley's 233 residents, as well as reporters from as far away as Floyd County.
"In the name of the good people of Purley, Texas," said Mayor Owen Hudspeth, breaking a jar of mustard over the monument's base, "I hereby dedicate this statue as the official symbol of Purley chili-dog pride."
Conveniently located just 11 miles south of Highway 8, the giant simulated frank boasts a height of 27 feet and an estimated weight of two tons. According to Bernice Smalls, curator of Purley's soon-to-open National Chili Dog Hall Of Fame And Museum, the chili dog is the second tallest free-standing fiberglass food item in the world, second only to a 35-foot-tall corn muffin in Kearney, NE.
"To give you an idea of the size of this chili dog, consider that, if it were real, it would contain 24 million calories and 450,000 grams of fat," Smalls said. "You'd have to jog across Texas 415 times just to burn it off."
Added Smalls: "I certainly wouldn't recommend that to anyone on a diet."
The mayor said that the chili dog and the adjacent museum, opening June 1, should attract an estimated 400,000 tourists annually, pumping millions of dollars into the local economy and creating more than 300 wiener-related jobs. A two-star hotel is also under construction.
"We're really moving into the big-time now," Hudspeth said. "As Chili Dog Capital Of The World, Purley will be the vacation destination for millions of chili-dog lovers around the globe. I just hope we are equipped to handle the crush of visitors."
The massive chili-dog simulacrum is expected to help Purley lure tourists from the many other competing world capitals nearby, including: Centerville (Okra Capital Of The World); Tyler (Allen Wrench Capital Of The World); Nacogdoches (Carbon-Dioxide Capital Of The World); and Rusk (Unicycling Capital Of The World).
City councilman Bert Kendall, whose campaign to make Purley "Paprika City, U.S.A." was defeated last year in a 13-9 council vote, praised the chili dog at its unveiling.
"Purley has, in the past, been regarded as unexceptional," Kendall said. "But now, we have the world's largest chili dog. So, to that end, we are exceptional, in that no town anywhere has a larger chili dog."
Kendall's "Paprika City, U.S.A." proposal was just one of dozens considered by the Purley city council last year in an effort to increase the small town's notoriety. Among the items proposed for construction: the world's largest shoelace; a ferris wheel made of carpet; and "Truckhenge," described by city councilman Richard Serrano as "just like Stonehenge, only with trucks."
In the end, however, the chili-dog plan won out, and Purley residents seem pleased. "We sure are proud of our big old chili dog," retired farmer Cordell Bullock said. "Biggest chili dog in the world, that's what that sucker is."
"It's good to see that we've finally done something for the young people of this community," Purley High School math teacher Gwen Vernon said. "This will help teach children things like how big the world's largest chili dog is, and where it is."
Vernon noted that children can also learn about economics from the chili-dog museum's gift shop, which sells miniature plastic replicas of the chili dog, chili-dog snow globes, and T-shirts reading, "I Saw The World's Largest Fiberglass Chili Dog."
Bill Stone, owner of the local hardware store, put it best: "If you stand about 200 feet away, close one eye, and hold up your hand just right, it looks like you're holding a giant chili dog in your hand. That's kind of neat."