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When giving directions, some cities rely on street signs, far-off mountains, or Google Maps to get around. In Marietta, we have something far better: the Big Chicken.
Proudly roosting at 12 Cobb Parkway, the Big Chicken has guided hungry Georgians to delicious fried chicken for over five decades.
The restaurant, which today is a KFC, originally opened in 1956 as a local eatery called Johnny Reb’s Chick-Chuck-‘N’-Shake. The 56-foot-tall bird first rose over Marietta in 1963 after S. R. “Tubby” Davis, the owner of the restaurant, hired Georgia Tech architecture student Hubert Puckett to create exciting advertising that would draw in travelers cruising down the newly constructed Highway 41.
Things haven’t always been easy for Marietta’s favorite landmark. A year after its debut, the motor that moved the Big Chicken’s eyes and beak caused so much vibration that all the windows in the restaurant shattered! A decade later, Davis sold the restaurant to his brother who turned it into a franchise of KFC. It’s rumored that Colonel Sanders himself wasn’t a fan of the Big Chicken and ordered it to be torn down. But when faced with public outcry, the Colonel let the Big Chicken live another day.
The Big Chicken almost met its end again in 1993, after the structure was damaged by high winds. Overwhelming support from the Marietta community, including pilots from the nearby air base, convinced KFC to repair the bird rather than tear it down. Pepsi chipped in to restore the beloved icon, and engineers even figured out how to dampen the motor, allowing the Big Chicken to move for the first time in 30 years.
In 2017, the Big Chicken and its restaurant got a $2 million makeover. After its re-hatching, the Big Chicken bears a fresh coat of paint, a new logo, a gift shop, and its own radio station! Next time you’re nearby, tune into 820 AM to hear “deep thoughts from the previously silent bird.”
Each town is unique, and the Big Chicken certainly helps make Marietta so egg-cellent !