CASEY, Ill. — Prairie breezes are making record-breaking, ethereal music in Casey, home to the world's biggest wind chime.
It stands 55 feet high at the center of a quarter of an acre of flowerbeds and lawns. The longest of five, 8-inch-wide chime pipes reaches 42 feet, and all are struck by a 75-pound, disc-shaped, granite hammer that produces a resonant note so deep it seems to come from everywhere.
"We got recognition from Guinness about three months ago," says one of the wind chime's prime movers, Jim Bolin. "And we will be in the 2013 Guinness Book of World Records."
Bolin always loved the sound of wind chimes, which provided the gentle theme music of lazy childhood summer days in his grandma's backyard. Although he's 47 now, the wind chime sound opens a door to yesterday.
"Kind of like smelling fresh-cut green grass," he adds, smiling.
So when Bolin and his wife, Diane, wanted to do something to that would give their hometown's economy a little tourist boost, a giant wind chime seemed like a sound idea.
Bolin soon discovered that the world's previous biggest, in Michigan, was a mere 23 feet long.
As one of the vice presidents of the family-run firm BEI Pipeline and Tank Maintenance, he knew he could count on talented siblings and employees to make his dream a reality.
Work started three years ago with Bolin doing the initial design by scaling up a wind chime hanging in his own porch. The construction work was finally done Dec. 15, and now the wind chime on family firm-owned land at 109 E. Main St. attracts visitors in droves.
The pipes are polished steel, carefully cut and finished for the best sound. The black tubular frame they hang in contains the Christian fish symbol and the Star of David, and the whole thing is crowned by a structure that appears as a cross when viewed from any direction.
"My mom (Judy Bolin, BEI company president) raised us in church and we are just people of faith," Bolin said.
Bolin and BEI never stopped to count the cost, considering the chimes their gift to the community.
That generosity also includes a next-door café in matching cedar called the Whitling Whimsy, named in honor of Bolin's late grandmother, Letha Whitling. It employs 12 and caters to wind chime visitors with a selection of deli-style sandwiches and fresh-baked desserts — and home-scale wind chimes for sale.
One visitor was Margaret Liebermann, of Terre Haute, Ind. "It's lovely," she said, glancing up at it. "And I'll come back."
Chelsea Crouch, 23, a waitress at the Whitling Whimsy, said the allure of the chimes is spreading far and wide.
"A couple of weeks ago people from Tokyo were here, but I am not sure how they heard about them," she said. "We get a lot of visitors from all over."
Information from: Herald & Review, http://www.herald-review.com