As Georgia accounts for nearly half of all peanuts annually produced in the US, the popular legume is ubiquitous throughout the state’s rural areas. Conspicuous by its oversized figure, a sculpted peanut adorns the verdant fields of Plains GA, overshadowing its life-sized counterparts. Known as the Jimmy Carter Peanut, the statue is a vestige of its titular protagonist’s presidential campaign, mimicking his iconic toothy smile.
In the months leading up to 1976 US presidential election, the Democratic Party had a trick up its sleeves to gain support for its candidate, Jimmy Carter. A ginormous goober by the name of Jimmy Carter Peanut made headlines across the country as its sculpted facial expression bore an uncanny resemblance to Carter’s acclaimed grin.
The brainchild of artist Loretta Townsend, the 13-feet (4 meters) tall statue was fashioned from a hodgepodge of aluminum foil, wooden hoops and chicken wire, sprayed over with polyurethane foam. Apart from the famous simper, the smiley groundnut was also inspired by Carter’s early days as a peanut farmer in Georgia, a peanut-producing superpower.
Originally created as nothing more than a mere election shtick, the sculpture greeted Carter and his staff on the party dinner in Evansville, Indiana, just two months before election day. Following Carter’s sweeping victory in November 1976, the nutty statue was relocated to Plains GA, the birthplace and hometown of president-elect Carter. For more than two decades or so, it perched on a railway platform in the town’s train station.
In 2000, the giant peanut was heavily damaged when a careless driver smashed his car on its delicate torso. Nevertheless, thanks to its townwide reverence, the goober was quickly repaired and moved to its current whereabouts on the outskirts of Plains, a short distance away from Maranatha Baptist Church, which the former president still attends every Sunday.
Over the years, Jimmy Carter Peanut evolved from an election-time gimmick into a landmark, widely synonymous with the town it now calls home. Not only that, it also holds the hefty title of being the world’s second tallest peanut statue, with the World’s Largest Peanut Monument located only a few kilometers away in Ashburn, Georgia.
Visitors who scrutinize the grinning peanut might notice that its rear part is notably punctured. According to some conspiracy theories, this mysterious hole can trace its roots back to 1976, when the US Secret Service sought to verify that the sculpture’s nutty confines are bomb-free.
photography by: Gabby Brito/ Wikimedia Commons
photography by: Carol M Highsmith/ Rawpixel