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South Carolina's Largest Peach Gets A Fresh Coat Of Paint

A South Carolina landmark that's both loved and lampooned is under renovation. You can't miss it driving on I-85 near the North Carolina border: it's a massive peach-shaped water tower.

The Peachoid, as it's called, has gained national attention through the show House of Cards. But the peach's bright paint has soured over the years, so the Gaffney Board of Public Works is giving it a makeover.

When maintenance crews sandblasted all of the paint off the giant peach water tower recently, people were furious. 

"We have actually had a lot of people call and via social media complain to us that we are taking down the Peachoid, and we do not need to do that because it's a landmark," said Claire Huminski, a communications intern for the city of Gaffney. "They were really upset, tweeting angry tweets at me. I'm like, we're not taking it down! I promise!"

In Gaffney, the Peachoid is more than a water tower.

The city's tourism director says she's talked to people from Canada, Germany and Japan who stopped through this city of less than 13,000 people just to see it.

The longtime publisher of the local paper, Cody Sossamon, says when he tells people where he’s from, "they don't know where Gaffney is, and then I say if you've ever been on Interstate 85 and seen the peach-shaped water tank - the Peachoid - they say, oh, now I know what you're talking about."

But the tower has never had a thorough repainting. So this week, Eric Henn climbed into a construction lift with a heavy steel door. 

"I'm going to hook up my safety harness and crank her up," he said.

Henn then rose more than 100 feet with paint rollers and a few shades of orange and yellow.

The renovation costs about $130,000. The original project cost about $950,000 and was finished in 1981.

Sossamon, The Gaffney Ledger's publisher, said the idea was to create a landmark for an area with a large peach farming community.

"I loved it and still do even though it's, to use the term loosely, the butt of a lot of jokes," he said with a laugh. "I think it's great."

About those jokes: The 135-foot tower has the colors – and curves – of an actual peach. Looking up at it, Gaffney native Leonard Wyatt says the crease is hard to miss.

"Because when you see the crack right here, you're going down the interstate, that's one of the first things you'll see, and people say it's a baby's butt with a rash," Wyatt said.

The Netflix hit House of Cards played up that idea. Kevin Spacey’s character, Frank Underwood, is the subject of an attack ad about the Peachoid that includes these lines: "It’s vulgar. It’s an embarrassment to the county. But time and time again Frank Underwood has fought to keep it standing."

The episode brought the Peachoid into people’s living rooms across the country. It’s the reason James Burroughs pulled over on his way from Atlanta to Raleigh.

"I decided to take a picture today so I can show some of my friends that yeah, see, the big peach does exist," he said.

Burroughs said his friends in Georgia (the Peach State) are confused by it. But South Carolina actually produces almost twice as many tons of peaches as Georgia, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The water tower doesn’t quite look like a peach again yet. City tourism director Leighann Snuggs says sandblasting, covering and priming it have resulted in some odd sights.

"It's been called a cupcake, an ice cream, molded when they stripped it down to bare metal, to being a lemon when they put the base coat of yellow on it," Snuggs said.

The guy painting it into a peach again, Eric Henn, came down from Ohio. He’s painted water tanks for more than 20 years.

"I have a couple hundred under my belt," Henn said. "They range from dolphins down in Tampa, Fla., to horses in Kentucky to apples in Virginia."

But he said this is his favorite project. He’s aiming to finish it by the end of May.

Some have wondered if the renovation will make the Peachoid look less like a human backside. Nope, said Kim Fortner of the Gaffney Board of Public Works. 

"You know it's kind of like, I'm sure you've heard the phrase, 'I don't care what you call me as long as you call me?'" she said. "A lot of people know where Gaffney is by this tank."

Even if it is on occasion the butt of a joke.