Bye gum! Icky sticky tourist attraction to be scrubbed clean
SEATTLE: You could call it local flavour, but you probably wouldn’t want to taste it. Seattle’s least likely tourist attraction, the so-called “Market Theatre Gum Wall” – a brick wall smothered in up to a million multicoloured gobbets of chewed gum – is to be scrubbed clean for the first time in two decades.
Part interactive art exhibit, part public health hazard, the Gum Wall has become a danger to itself, as the sugar in the gum has reportedly begun to erode the bricks beneath.
According to legend, the Gum Wall first squelched into existence around 1993, when patrons of the Market Theatre’s improv comedy group, Unexpected Productions, began sticking their used gum to the bricks as they queued for late-night shows in Post Alley, beneath the city’s Pike Place Market.
The Gum Wall has since grown to 2.4m high and more than 15m wide, sporting an estimated 150 pieces of gum per brick, some of them decades old and centimetres thick. Strings of gum dangle from sills like snot from a nostril. Some more creative chewers have fashioned patterns and designs.
The Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority issued a news release saying the wall would be steam-blasted clean starting on Tuesday. The cleaning process is expected to take several days.
The wall has been partially scrubbed three times before, but this will be its first deep clean in 20 years. “Just like you, all that sugar can really mess up the surface of your bricks, er, teeth,” read a post from the Gum Wall on the Market’s Facebook page. “I have to admit, after 20 years, I’m feeling a little icky, sticky and in desperate need of a good scrubbing to make me sparkle again.”
Clean freaks were shocked in 1999 when Seattle authorities officially declared the Gum Wall a local attraction. In a 2009 TripAdvisor survey, it was named the world’s secondgermiest sight, behind Cork’s much- kissed Blarney Stone, and ahead of the pigeoninfested St Mark’s Square in Venice.
The wall has been tagged some 80 000 times on Insta- gram. Kolleen W, a Yelp reviewer from New Jersey who gave the Gum Wall a five-star rating, wrote on the recommendation site: “Remember to bring some colourful gum, your camera, and some hand sanitiser.”
To encourage fans of the wall to memorialise it one more time, the market is holding a photo contest, inviting amateur snappers to upload their best shots of the bizarre landmark to its Facebook page. Officials have also said they fully expect the Gum Wall to be recreated again after the cleaning.
The Gum Wall is not the only such attraction on the US West Coast. “Bubblegum Alley” in San Luis Obispo, California is a 4.5m-high and 21.3mlong alleyway plastered with gum on both sides. – The Independent