MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - A couple hours south of the Twin Cities you'll come across the city of Austin, which some also refer to as "The City of Spam."
"We have those visitors where this is their destination," said Savile Lord of the SPAM Museum.
The museum is dedicated entirely to one food item, but it takes about two seconds to realize this is no ordinary food. During a normal year, 115,000 people visit the SPAM Museum. Even if they don't know what SPAM stands for.
"We probably answer that 40 to 50 times a day," said Lord. "The 'SP' from spice and the 'AM' from ham. Put it together for 'SPAM.'"
The name emerged during a 1936 New Year's Eve party inventor Jay Hormel threw for his canned ham creation. A few years later, it was that creation that fueled our troops during World War II.
"There's a 50-pound crate in this exhibit. You'd have to pull it 100 million times to equal the amount of SPAM consumed during World War II," said Lord.
SPAM's worldwide popularity continued to grow even after the war. To this day, it's a staple in Hawaii. Each year a large group from the Aloha State heads to Vegas for Blackjack. But they fly to Minnesota first for SPAM.
"Instead of going directly to Las Vegas they'll fly directly to Minneapolis, drive down and visit the SPAM Museum- and then drive to Las Vegas from there," said Lord.
A few years ago, a couple from England took their visit one step further.
"This couple was a unique, unique family," said Lord. Mark Benson and Anne Mousley traveled 4,000 miles for a SPAM-tastic wedding. Fitting, because before they arrived, Mark legally changed his name to Mark "I Love Spam" Benson. The Queen herself signed off on it.
"He's a dedicated SPAM fan," said Lord.
Michelle Lilly is a SPAMbassador at the museum, greeting guests from around the world. During her first day on the job she had the same reaction many of her visitors have.
"When I walked in the front door I was thinking who knew SPAM was a big deal?!" she said.
Now she knows. It's funny what a little pork with ham, sugar, water, salt, potato starch and sodium nitrate can do for the soul.
"We want people in the middle of L.A. or the middle of Brooklyn to know there is a SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota," said Lord.
Here are a couple of other SPAM facts:
- 8 million cans of SPAM are eaten in Hawaii each year.
- Hormel Foods, which makes SPAM, is located just down the road from the museum.
- The company has been in Austin for 130 years.
To learn more about the SPAM Museum, click here.
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