Return to Vol. 6 Issue 1, February 2011

Behind The Scenes: On the Road — Our Favorite American Kitsch

By in Vol. 6 Issue 1, February 2011

We definitely have our fair share of kitsch here in the City of Brotherly Love — Pat’s and Geno’s, Ride the Ducks, City Tavern, entire stretches of South Street.  The Mummers parade is the largest spectacle of kitsch I’ve ever seen, but it’s pretty fabulous at the same time.  These  local eccentricities give our city character, and it just wouldn’t be Philly without them.  From time to time though, we here at Azavea hit the open road and venture beyond the city limits.  In our travels across the US, we’ve come across some pretty kitschy stuff.  We polled everyone in the office for some highlights and the results are varied.  From shoe trees and giant fairy tale characters, to retro nic nacs in our childhood homes, here are some of our favorite pieces of American kitsch:

Abby Fretz, Product Development Manager: “The many classic diners I’ve been to across the US – each with their own unique ‘kitsch’ factor.”

Bennett Huber, Software DeveloperShoe Tree John Day River Valley, OR

Carissa Brittain, Software Developer: Misty Mountain Furniture Chainsaw Art Bears Sandpoint, ID

Chip Hitchens, Project Manager: Largest Ball of Sisal Twine Cawker City, KS and World’s Largest Thermometer Baker, CA

Claire Connelly, Admin and Marketing Assistant: Gingerbread Castle Hamburg, NJ

David Zwarg, Software Developer: Shoe Tree Middlegate, NV

Deb Boyer, Project Manager: Guitar shaped fly swatter souvenir Nashville, TN  “I think it’s quite possibly the most perfect piece of souvenir kitsch ever. It’s blue and came from a cheap tourist trash store.”

Erik Osheim, Software Developer: Mustard Museum Middleton, WI

Hillary Kativa, PhillyHistory Intern: “The retro diner signs that I have decorating my kitchen. I’ve collected them from various places over the years, but they also keep me tied to my Jersey roots since we take our diners very seriously in New Jersey!”

Jamal Alsarraj, Cicero Data Assistant: Johnny Rockets South Street, Philadelphia

Jeremy Heffner, Business Development Associate: Roadside America Shartlesville, PA

Mary Johnson, GIS/Technical Writer: Lucy the Elephant Margate, NJ. “Where else can you climb inside a giant elephant and actually look out at the world through her porthole eye? Located in Margate, a nice little seashore town. They also have a neat little museum in the elephant’s stomach!”

Mike Romankiewicz, GIS Analyst: Hot Dog Johnny’s Classic roadside hot dog stand in Butzville, NJ

Rachel Cheetham-Richard, Vice President: Gigantic Statue of Paul Bunyon Bangor, ME (his birthplace)

Robert Cheetham, President and CEO: “Vegas. The whole city. It’s all kitsch.”

Ryan Lawrence, Graphic Designer: Florence Y’all Water Tower Florence, KY

Sarah Pierro, GIS Analyst: Lucy the Elephant Margate, NJ

Tamara Manik-Perlman, Project Manager: Dickeyville Grotto Dickeyville, WI

Timothy Horning, PhillyHistory.org Intern: Kit-Cat Clock on my parents’ wall. “It’s still on a wall in my parents house even though the mechanism that makes it actually work broke down years and years ago. They refuse to part with it for sentimental reasons, so the sad little Kit-Cat stays.”

Project Manager Tamara Manik-Perlman snaps a sneaky self-portrait at Dickeyville Grotto in Dickeyville, WI