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Economy & Business

Catsup bottle festival comes to an end in Collinsville

The festival has taken place in July over the past two decades to mark the big catsup bottle in Collinsville.
Mike Gassmann
The festival has taken place in July over the past two decades to mark the big catsup bottle in Collinsville.

After 19 years, an annual July event to mark a Metro East roadside attraction is no more. Organizers have pulled the plug on “The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle Festival” in Collinsville, saying it’s become too much work.

They also wanted to go out on a high note, said Mark Gassmann, who is one of the promoters.

“Last year was probably our biggest event that we ever had,” he said. “We had more sponsors. More vehicles for the car show. We really took it over the top last year.”

Gassmann, who lists his official title as president, CEO and "Big Tomato" of World’s Largest Catsup Bottle Inc., said after last year many of those involved decided to “pull the plug” thinking they probably couldn’t do any better than the 2018 festival.

The bottle is also a water tower in Collinsville. It is owned by a private company, but local residents handle promotion of the attraction.
Credit Mike Gassmann
The bottle is also a water tower in Collinsville. It is owned by a private company, but local residents handle promotion of the attraction.

He runs the bottle’s preservation group along with his wife and a couple of other volunteers. That organization is credited with saving the landmark back in the 1990s and has handled the marketing, promotion, and events ever since.

The announcement of the end of the festival came over the weekend on Facebook. It prompted an immediate reaction on the social media site, with many people saying they're sad with the decision. At least one other fan suggested a combined horseradish-catsup bottle festival.

Collinsville is also the site of the International Horseradish Festival, which marks 30 years in June.

Gassmann regards the decision as an opportunity for him and a few others to enjoy the summer months.

“We’ve had a great long run,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of fun with it over the years and it just sort of got to be time to call it quits and move on with our lives.”

The bottle was constructed in 1949 by the G.S. Suppiger company, which owned a Brooks Catsup factory at the site. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. It stands on a 3-acre site, where the product was once produced. 

One of the 2017 festival attendees allowed a hairdresser from Australia to transform her head into a replica of the catsup bottle.
Credit Mike Gassmann
One of the 2017 festival attendees allowed a hair dresser from Australia to transform her head into a replica of the catsup bottle.

At its peak, the festival attracted up to 5,000 people a day. And they came from all over, including last year, when a hairdresser from Australia showed up.

“He actually replicated a woman's hair in the shape of the catsup bottle and it was really, really fun to see that.”

Other events are being planned to promote what Gassmann describes as the biggest roadside attraction in Collinsville. That includes a Route 66 related weekend in June.

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