A giant lemon is pretty tame compared to some of the strange statues and sculptures erected across the country in the name of civic self-expression.
In fact, some of the quirkiest city monuments I've found are in the great state of Minnesota. How about a 30-foot Willie the Walleye? Or, perhaps, a nine-ton prairie chicken is more to your liking. Looking for something a little different? How about a big mallard or giant turkey.
Here is a brief history of the big lemon from the City’s General Plan:
Lemon Grove enjoys warm, mild weather characteristic of Mediterranean climates. Summers are warm and dry, and winters are cooler with occasional rains. Cool ocean breezes enhance the temperate climate. Early residents, charmed by the ideal weather conditions, claimed that Lemon Grove has the “Best Climate on Earth,” which still serves as the City’s official motto.
During the 1920s community pride grew stronger than ever. To showcase that pride the Volunteers from the Veterans of Foreign Wars constructed the town’s monument—a 3,000 pound lemon—in 1928. Crafted of wood and plaster, the ten foot wide statue sits prominently in the town center at 3361 Main Street (at the intersection of Broadway and Main Street) and recalls images of the community’s early industrious spirit and agricultural roots.
Written across the base of this monument are the words “Best Climate on Earth.”
I quizzed Mike James, director of Public Works for the city, about our town’s most famous symbol:
Q. What does the city do to maintain the big lemon?
A. Weekly, city crews will pick up trash at or near the Lemon. Normal maintenance procedures include trash pickup near the location, trimming the grass inside the fence line, and visually inspecting the Lemon.
Q. How often is it painted or cleaned?
A. Typically, the Lemon is painted every 7-10 years.
Q. Is it a big crew that does the maintenance?
A. Not really. A crew of two Public Works employees power washed the Lemon before it was last painted. Historically speaking, the painting itself has been contracted out. But approximately one year ago, the Hitzke Development Corporation volunteered their services and repainted the Lemon at no charge to the City.
Q. How many gallons of paint to cover the lemon?
A. Two gallons of yellow and one quart of green.
Q. Any vandalism problems?
A. Surprisingly there are not very many vandalism problems with the Lemon. Most are graffiti. Sometimes there are occasional minor acts of vandalism on the concrete base, but the residents and visitors of Lemon Grove have a respect for the Lemon.
We do respect our Lemon. If you have some time, stop by the big yellow citrus to say hello—and be thankful it is not a giant sand flea.