Georgia's Big Peanut is back.
The roadside landmark along Interstate 75 in south Georgia was rededicated Thursday, nearly five years after an earlier version was felled by the winds of Hurricane Michael.
This time, the giant goober is made of sheet metal, not fiberglass.
It’s a symbol of pride in the heart of south Georgia’s peanut belt, as well as an enticement for tourists to pull off the highway in the small town of Ashburn.
The Ashburn-Turner County Chamber of Commerce raised nearly $80,000 to replace the giant groundnut, which had saluted motorists since 1975 until it was blown down on Oct. 10, 2018. The majority of the money came from the Georgia Department of Agriculture, although Turner County residents also raised thousands.
The peanut, atop a brick pedestal, has come to symbolize the county of 9,000 people, which is halfway between Macon and the Florida state line.
“I think it represents home,” said Ashley Miller, the chamber's executive director. “I know it's a small town, but when you say, ‘Have you seen the peanut?’ That's me.”
She said it's also a fitting tribute to peanut farmers in a county where almost everyone is touched by agriculture.
Community leaders spent about $70,000 to replace the peanut, holding the remaining money for maintenance. They hired Cole Sercer, of Sercer Machine & Fabrication in nearby Rebecca, to make the new peanut.
Sercer said he and employees modeled the new nut after the remains of the one destroyed by the hurricane. But it's made differently, with a metal pole and frame inside and dozens of custom-worked sheet metal panels forming the curvy shell of the nut. Below is a golden crown with an aluminum frame and yellow plastic panels. The peanut is painted in brown and beige architectural paint, and in a modern touch, is now illuminated by LED lights at night.
It took workers a combined 700 to 800 hours to build the landmark, Sercer said, which weighs around 5,000 pounds. From the bottom of the brick pylon to the top of the peanut, Sercer said the landmark is more than 40 feet tall.
Sercer said his company does “a little bit of everything” including customizing trucks and off-road vehicles, but it also works on farm equipment and in peanut-processing plants.
Next up is making the Big Peanut more welcoming in the social media age. Miller said Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis once took a selfie with the previous giant goober, and she plans to set up a “selfie spot” so tourists can get the best angle with the new Big Peanut.
This story was first published July 24, 2023. It was updated on July 25, 2023, to correct the name of the executive director of the Ashburn-Turner County Chamber of Commerce. She is Ashley Miller, not Rebecca Miller. The name of a celebrity who took a selfie with the Big Peanut was also corrected. He is Ashton Kutcher, not Austin Kutcher.