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Hot Times at the Garlic Festival

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5. Ketchup: The old Brooks Foods Factory no longer bleeds red gold, but the people of Collinsville, Ill., won't let the world's largest bottle of ketchup leave us for that big pantry in the sky.

Kids of all ages have always been filled with anticipation as they head down Route 159 where you'll find a 170-foot water tower that the company built in 1949 to resemble a bottle of rich and tangy Brooks ketchup (although the company spells it catsup).


"The old timers still remember the Tabasco-y smell that would waft through town," says festival spokesman Mike Gassmann. "It's part of our history."

In the early 1960s, ketchup production was shifted to Canada. Brooks kept the Collinsville facility as a warehouse. Then, the company changed ownership several times, and when the facility was sold in 1993, fear spread that Collinsville's unnatural wonder would cease to be.

But in the name of civic pride, townspeople raised $100,000. By 2002, the giant ketchup bottle proudly took its place alongside Civil War battlefields on America's National Register of Historic Places.

The Collinsville festival — held every June, to help pay for the bottle's upkeep — is now in its seventh year. The event includes an exhibition in landmark roadside architecture, with pictures of the world's largest ball of string and a singing cow, which, of course, belts out Elvis Presley hits.

Gassmann, who's officially designated "The Big Tomato," says that President Bush even wanted to see the giant ketchup bottle, when he was campaigning in the state last year.

"Lucky for us it's Brooks ketchup," he says. "I don't think he'd be as eager to come here and be dwarfed by a giant bottle of Heinz."

Sen. John Kerry's wife — Teresa Heinz Kerry — was not among the 5,000 ketchup revelers at this year's event. Perhaps the only other disappointment is that organizers have yet to introduce ketchup paintball.

Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at ABCNEWS.com. "The Wolf Files" is published Tuesdays.

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