Jimmy Carter Peanut
Over thirty years after it first appeared, this roadside statue still makes us smile, though maybe not with the big-toothed glee of our former President. It's still in front of the Davis E-Z Shop in Plains, last we checked. A store employee confirmed: "It's still here. People been pickin' at it. It needs repair real bad."
At thirteen feet tall, it could be the world's second largest peanut. The peanut was made by three Indiana residents -- James Kiely, Doyle Kifer, and Loretta Townsend -- for a 1976 political visit to Evanston by Jimmy Carter. The hollow sculpture's framework is a series of wooden hoops covered with chicken wire, polyurethane and aluminum foil.
After the parade, the peanut was transported to Plains.
The peanut sat for years on the steps of the Plains train depot, where souvenir-hunters gouged pieces out of it and carved their names into its Styrofoam shell. The folks at Davis E.Z. Shop thought this was not right, so they took the peanut, filled its bottom with concrete and anchored it to the lawn in front of their store. They estimate it's "the most photographed thing in Plains." A small fence around it is in the process of collapsing under years and tons of tourists perching for photos.
There is a large hole cut in the back of the peanut, which we hastily assumed was a byproduct of the concrete anchoring work. According to Loretta Townsend, one of the original sculptors, the hole was ordered cut by the Secret Service back in 1976 -- to make sure the grinning goober didn't contain a bomb or an assassin.
In 2000, peanut Jimmy was toppled by a careless driver with no apparent political ax to grind. Repairs soon restored the statue to its former glory -- now boasting full "winterization."
And just in time, too, as human Jimmy was honored with a much-deserved Nobel Peace Prize. We were hoping the folks in the Davis E-Z Shop had carved a Nobel medallion for their Peanut of Peace.