A 41-year-old Navy man stationed at Pearl Harbor has captured the imagination, if not appetites, of people nationwide with his recent discovery of what is described as the world’s biggest Chee-to. According to CNN, Evans, a Petty Officer and Gulf War Veteran, had bought a bag of Chee-tos for his 3-year-old son and found the lemon-sized, half-ounce giant inside. The Chee-to is now en route to Iowa, where it will be enshrined in a museum.
Evans is a long-time user of the online auction site eBay, and decided to put the snack-food artifact up for sale. The Chee-to immediately developed a cult following, with people designing giant Chee-to T-shirts and puppets and driving the bidding into the stratosphere.
“I was absolutely astounded that something like a Chee-to could become a pop icon,” Evans told reporters. “It’s international. I’ve even seen it online on a Russian site.”
When prank bidding pushed the price above a million dollars, eBay cancelled the auction. Frustrated, Evans decided to donate the Chee-to to the small farming town of Algona, Iowa (population 6,000), after he learned several residents had pooled money to bid in the auction.
Residents of Algona have seized upon the Chee-to as a possible tourism draw, and “plan to shellac it, lay it on plush velvet and put it under Plexiglas,” CNN reported.
The news network quoted Algona businessman Tom Straub, who said: “This giant Chee-to could be a boon to our local economy. Anything we can do to attract visitors to our town would be good.”
Even after news of the donation spread, the giant Chee-to-sparked madness continued on the web. A search of eBay today turned up dozens of items, from “Chee-to Pets” to giant potato chips.
Chee-tos have been around for 55 years, one of several snack products from Frito-Lay. A spokesman for the company told CNN that no Chee-to the size of the one Evans discovered has ever escaped from the plant.
“We have very high standards and practices in place,” said a Frito-Lay spokesperson. “It’s never happened before. Not in our lifetime.”
The man in charge of development in the Chee-tos division said the giant Chee-to is probably Chee-to seasoning that built up, came out, and made it past inspectors.
“If you love cheese, this is the Chee-to for you,” Kevin Cogan told CNN. “It’s beyond dangerously cheesy.”
The group of bidders from Algona were organized by a local radio station, and had managed to raise $180. With Evans donating the Chee-to for free, the money as well as a $1,000 pledge from Frito-Lay will go to a local food bank.