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National

Seattle Says Goodbye To A Disgusting Tourist Attraction: The Gum Wall

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Seattle's famous Gum Wall is getting deep-cleaned this week. Located in an alley outside a theatre at Pike Place Market, people have been sticking their chewing gum there since the early 1990s. Now, from far away, the brick looks like it's covered in colorful splats of paint. Up close, it's gross. Joshua McNichols of member station KUOW reports.

JOSHUA MCNICHOLS, BYLINE: Early in the morning, contractors arrive at the Gum Wall with their equipment. They wear heavy raincoats. They connect hoses to a propane-powered water heater. People have been saying goodbye to the Gum Wall since the cleanup was announced last month. Kristin Powers flew into Seattle from Boston. She came straight from the airport to the Gum Wall.

KRISTIN POWERS: Just, like, looking at it gives me, like, the heebie-jeebies, but I'm kind of glad that I got to see it before they steam clean it and it all comes melting down. Like, that's so gross (laughter).

MCNICHOLS: Visitors work up their courage and press their gum into the gooey mass.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: All right, on the count of three - one, two, three.

MCNICHOLS: Beth Melton and hear beau came from Illinois. They took turns carefully pushing their gum into a shape.

BETH MELTON: I made the heart, and then he decided to put the arrow through it. So it's both our gum.

MCNICHOLS: The Gum Wall has taken over the entire alley. Emily Crawford, who works for Pike Place Market, has a window that looks out on the alley. She keeps it closed.

EMILY CRAWFORD: Especially when it gets really hot and humid. You can imagine the wave of the scent of the spearmint and the bubblegum, the Bubblicious.

MCNICHOLS: Crawford says she loves the spirit of the Gum Wall, but people are tracking gum into businesses on their clothes, on their shoes. That's why the contractors are here now with their equipment, attacking the Gum Wall with hot steam. Passerby Miller Carteeni watches the hot wads of gum fall onto a piece of sheet metal.

MILLER CARTEENI: It's amazing. It seems to be coming off fairly easy.

MCNICHOLS: After it's all gone, the air outside Emily Crawford's window will smells better for a while but not forever.

CRAWFORD: I know that there are folks out there who are counting down the hours and have their gum ready and, as soon as the cleaners are gone or maybe while the cleaners are there, are going to be trying to put gum back on the wall.

MCNICHOLS: Crawford says the market will not stand in the way of rebels like that. The Gum Wall will rise again. For NPR News, I'm Joshua McNichols in Seattle. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.