A road trip of Australia’s fibreglass monuments
The Big Mandarin
If there’s one thing we’ve seen plenty of so far on our road trip, it’s oversized pieces of fruit. Well folks, the fruit salad ain’t finished yet, coz here’s another one. And after four oranges, three apples, two bananas, a strawberry, an avocado, not to mention a bowl of fruit as well, this time we have our first mandarin.
We’ve swung a sharp west and travelled 200kms inland from Bundaberg to the tiny town of Mundubbera, population approximately 1,125 and home of the Big Mandarin. As Mundubbera has long been widely regarded as the ‘Citrus Capital of Queensland’, it was always inevitable that a big fibreglass citrus fruit of some description would one day take up residence. However, there were four other Big Oranges already in existence, and a Big Lemon might have invited unkind nicknames, but luckily, Mundubbera has always laid claim to producing more mandarins than anywhere else in Australia, so it really was a no brainer..
It was the owners of the local Citrus Country Village theme park who made the Big Mandarin a reality, mainly to lure tourists up from Brisbane, which it managed to do very efficiently from day one. It was originally dubbed the “Enormous Ellendale” (named after the most popular variety of mandarin grown in the area), but the name didn’t really stick, so for years it’s simply been called the Big Mandarin.
Painted a bright, happy, slightly-Prozac-inspired shade of orange, the structure certainly makes its presence felt in the local area. With a large green leaf sprouting out of its top and a cute little peek-a-boo window on its side, from a distance it has a whimsical, almost fairy tale-like quality, like it belongs in Munchkinland. It isn’t until you’re standing next to it that you realise you’re the munchkin. The Big Mandarin is much bigger close up, standing an imposing 7m high with a 9m diameter.
It was originally constructed by a Brisbane builder who transported the 10 separate segments up to Mundubbera is semi-trailers, where they were welded together on site. It was unveiled in May 1983 on what happened to be the 50th anniversary of the first citrus planting in the area, a juicy little fact that made the Big Mandarin’s appearance into the world all that more triumphant.
And so it has reigned ever since, the undisputed star of Mundubbera. Maybe our ex-PM, ex-Foreign Affairs Minister, Kevin Rudd, could possibly look up to it as a role model. Its lesson is clear – sometimes just speaking Mandarin isn’t enough… sometimes you have to BE the mandarin.