Giant Radio Flyer wagon is grounded on Michigan Avenue
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It’s giant and it’s functional.
And to keep the 15,000-pound Radio Flyer wagon parked in the gently sloped courtyard across the street from the Wrigley Building from rolling toward Michigan Avenue and down the Magnificent Mile, wedges like those used to keep aircraft from moving were tucked beneath its wheels.
The safety mechanisms were in place to prevent a promotional event celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Chicago-based company that put the little red wagon on the map, from taking a twist that might be appropriate in the sequel of “Honey I Shrunk the Kids,” but is not cool when the mayor was expected to arrive momentarily to bestow his blessings — as was the case Thursday morning.
The wagon — the planet’s biggest, according the Guinness Book of World Records — was to be on display in Pioneer Court all day Thursday.
Late Thursday, a forklift was set to load it onto a flatbed truck that will return it to the company’s headquarters, 6515 W. Grand Ave.
“I don’t know what else to say other than it’s a really big wagon,” Carly Abbott said as she pushed a stroller containing daughters, Wren, 6, and Blythe, 1.
Abbott, of Streeterville, was there for the face-painting, though free donuts and popsicles also were handed out; festivities were scheduled until 3 p.m.
The giant wagon, built 20 years ago for the company’s 80th anniversary, was inspired by a similarly huge wagon the company built for the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago.
Radio Flyer CEO Robert Pasin said his grandfather, Antonio, an Italian immigrant who started the company, was nicknamed “Little Ford” because “he did for the wagon what Ford did for the car.”
There’s not much of a backstory to the odd and iconic name of the company. Pasin said his grandfather just took two words that captured the spirit of high technology at the time and put them together.
The family-owned company has about 75 employees in its Chicago office, though production has moved to other locations in the United States and China.
“Today we’re thanking Chicago for the support through the years,” said Pasin, of Oak Park.
Next to the wagon stands a giant statue of Abraham Lincoln — one of several art exhibits that have been featured in the Pioneer Court space.
Lincoln missed the birth of the Radio Flyer company by 52 years.