A road trip of Australia’s fiberglass monuments
The Big Orange
The biggest category of Big Thing in Australia is fruit. Of this dominant fiberglass sub-species, the biggest member of all, without a doubt, – is the Big Orange at Berri, in South Australia. This oversized citrus is a whopping 15 metres tall and incorporates a café, souvenir shop, function room and 360 degree hand-painted mural. There’s even an open-air lookout, which offers sweeping panoramic views of the surrounding orchards.
This dominance is especially impressive when you consider that Australia has a total of four Big Oranges all competing with each other, scattered at various locations across four states. As if they’d all dropped out of a giant shopping bag and rolled in different directions, as oranges do, (and usually when everyone’s looking). Very early in our fiberglass tour, we deliberately bypassed the first Big Orange, in Tenterfield, NSW, as it wasn’t up to scratch. The quality of the remaining two Big Oranges, in WA and Queensland respectively, remains to be seen.
The alpha orange is, of course, here in the quaint little town of Berri, in South Australia’s agriculturally fertile Riverland region. This Big Thing was conceived by three local developers in the mid-1970s, and – from go to woe – cost a juicy $145,000 to construct and install. It opened to the public in January 1980, billing itself as “the largest sphere in the southern hemisphere.”
In spite of its impressive vital statistics, for the last third of its life Berri’s Big Orange has struggled to retain either credibility or commercial success. Between 2000 and 2006 it changed hands three times, then for something a bit different, went liquidation in 2008. These were extremely stressful times for the Big Orange, as it went through the emotional juicer several times, and on high speed. At one point, the liquidators even suggested turning it into a Giant Golfball with sponsors’ names written across it.
Fortunately for the Big Orange, this nightmarish scenario never materialized. Late in 2010, the structure was sold privately to a local businessman who intends opening it to the public again as a fully functioning Big Thing.
The moral of the story? Not sure really. Something witty to do with oranges.