NPR logo Roadside America: The Decline Of Kitsch?

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Roadside America: The Decline Of Kitsch?

Somewhere in the far-off kingdom of Virginia is a place called the Enchanted Dragon Mirror Maze. I've now passed it thrice by car, and have somehow resisted the urge to stop each time. This kind of kitschy, roadside advertising is strangely effective; it has personality, charm and a certain lunacy that makes one mutter affectionately, "Only in America." On the other hand, in a competition with Starbucks and McDonalds for ad space, roadside Americana could be a dying art.

A new book by photographer John Margolies, Roadside America, explores our evolving taste and the changing face of America's roadsides. It's a survey of oddities — jumbo bananas, wacky billboard language, neon lights — that has been documenting for the past 30 years, over the course of 100,000 miles on the road.

Roadside America by John Margolies (Taschen, 2010) hide caption

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Maybe I'm wrong, but we don't seem to be erecting enormous papier-mache-looking dinosaurs in the middle of nowhere anymore. Unfortunately. Our tastes have apparently changed.

I would really love to be proved wrong. If you've seen new manifestations of weird roadside attractions, take a photo and add it to our group pool on Flickr. Or if you've seen them abroad — even better!

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