The last installment of our South Dakota trilogy presents one of those rarified sites for which all passersby must find a reason to stop. America is the grand bastion of the roadside attraction and thus far the one we happened upon in Southern Minnesota clearly ranks in the royal court of kitsch. I leave it to you to decide which crown to bestow. Having revealed this destination even before the trip, it should come as no surprise that this exotic site is none other than the Spam Museum, located in Ausitn, MN.
A virtual monument to that uniquely American can of swine-meat, the Spam museum chronicles the rise of the Hormel company from small, local butchery to global food supplier. All the while the blue and gold of the irrepressible Spam can are everywhere. The can itself becomes not only an ingredient of art, but art itself. Everywhere you walk the distinctly shaped container in ever-present. It really is quite astonishing! From the enormous wall of Spam, to the long and winding, twin-level conveyer belt of moving Spam, to the passage into the heart of Spam history, the can is there. Words do not adequately describe the place, which is why I have so many pictures.
It really is impossible to fathom the level of detail Hormel has gone to celebrating its trademark product (I mean they also make Dinty Moore products, but who the hell eats that!). There is a movie theater, profiling a quartet of Spam Singers, a university student who has worn a Spam t-shirt everyday for five years running, and a profile of the Spammobile. Few products of any kind engender such a fanaticism, Apple is the only one that immediately comes to mind. Everyone knows at least one Apple freak, which I am occasionally accused of being; but I have yet to go on the Apple geek cruise! Nevertheless, this is not far from the kind of phenomenon we are talking about here.
The décor really was impressive. Just beyond the Spamburger that floats above your head, as you walk down one hallway, is a completely gold colored modern sofa, complete with flanking blue chairs that match. This is adjacent to the enormous spatula below. Each area had a theme too. One commemorates the role Spam played in feeding Our Boys in Europe, during World War II. There is a room that hosts a digital quiz show, dedicated to the salty treat. Plus, how can you not appreciate a place that even has a sense of humor about its own salaciousness, for there is even an area where you can watch the classic Monty Python skit in perpetuity. And don’t worry, the new Broadway musical is not without representation. The whole place is thoroughly entertaining and you cannot get through the place without being offered a Spample at least three times.
Let me reiterate what my beloved said upon our exit, “That place is a work of pure marketing genius!” She could not have been more accurate. You see the museum itself is free, but they have taken a page from Disney, as the whole experience finds you smack dab in the middle of a gift shop with more Spam paraphernalia than you can possibly imagine. Apparel is only the beginning of the offerings, and there are many options in that category, indeed. Magnets, recipe books (Who knew all the uses of that can’s contents?), pens, mouse pads, sports balls, slicers, even Spam Singles are all available at relatively reasonable prices. They don’t need to charge anything for the experience, they must bilk something in the range of $40.00 from every patron, ourselves included. Have no fear, if you crave the Spam symbol to adorn your clothing, your desk, your home, there is a catalog available, as well as online access. However, you might think of joining the fan club (No foolin’!).
So please, enjoy Spam and all other associated propaganda. And if you ever find yourself on Spam Boulevard do stop in the museum, the laughs alone will make it worthwhile.
I leave you, Spam lover or not, with this jingle:
Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam
Hormel’s new miracle meat in a can
Saves time, tastes fine,
To eat something grand ask for Spam