Georgia's famous peanut statue has been rebuilt after the hurricane
AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:
A metal goober looms large over the I-75 running through Georgia. Ashley Miller is in its shadow.
ASHLEY MILLER: I am out front in front of the world's largest peanut monument.
RASCOE: Miller is the executive director of the Ashburn-Turner County Chamber of Commerce. And she led the effort to restore the brittle statue after it fell during Hurricane Michael in 2018.
MILLER: The hurricane - it was about five hours of just pure hurricane. It was one of the strongest ones we'd ever seen. And because the peanut had been up for so long, it was in need of repair anyway. But it ended up falling over. It was made of fiberglass, so it just kind of cracked. And we had to get it back up.
RASCOE: But why was it so important to bring it back to life?
MILLER: Back in 1975, the community wanted to recognize that Ashburn was the largest peanut grower. We were the largest peanut growers per capita for our landmass in the state of Georgia. And they decided we needed to have a landmark that would make us stand out.
RASCOE: And boy, does it stand out. The new statue is made of sheet metal and is a little bit bigger than the original - 16 1/2 feet tall, 8 feet wide and stands on a 20-foot pedestal. And for Ashburn residents, it's a source of pride.
HUGH HARDY: We definitely respect and honor our farmers who are peanut farmers today. You know, that's - a big part of our economy, you know, for us, is the peanut farmer.
RASCOE: That's Hugh Hardy, who owns Carroll's Sausage & Country Store.
HARDY: We're located right beside the big peanut there on the interstate.
RASCOE: So the store is basically the jelly to the peanut. Hardy says that when it fell, he saw less traffic in the store.
HARDY: And then since the peanut monument has went back up, that has picked back up again tremendously, you know? Now we're seeing a steady flow of traffic going down. People go by the peanut. They get pictures taken. And then obviously, a lot of them are visiting my store before they hit the interstate again. So definitely glad to have it back up for sure.
RASCOE: Eva Joiner was glad, too. She was visiting the statue with her two teenagers.
EVA JOINER: We were having a conversation. And I was jogging their memory about when Ashton Kutcher took a picture with the peanut, and we went viral worldwide at that point. And they couldn't remember it. So I just wanted them to come and see it up close.
RASCOE: Joiner is an educator, and the peanut is a symbol to her students.
JOINER: One of our pathways at the high school is agriculture. So I think it is important to educate our students on what we're known for here in Turner County.
RASCOE: And finally, Miller says that when you're driving down that highway, you'll always know where you are.
MILLER: Everyone knows, when you see the peanut, you're home. You're here in Ashburn-Turner County.
RASCOE: That was Ashley Miller, Eva Joiner and Hugh Hardy.
(SOUNDBITE OF FRUIT BATS SONG, "ABSOLUTE LOSER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.