Fall may be right around the corner in North America, and most state & county fairs may have wrapped up, but there are still plenty of festivals coming up on the calendar. One of our favorites is the Plains Peanut Festival in Plains, Georgia.
The 18th annual festival will be held on September 27, 2014. Billed as “Plains, Peanuts, and a President,” it combines festival staples such as small-town charm, tasty food, and civic pride with some US history: President Jimmy Carter hails from Plains. Although he and former First Lady Rosalyn Carter play prominent roles in the festival, it’s really all about the peanuts!
The day kicks off with a one-mile fun run and a 5K road race. A $15 registration fee gives entrants a t-shirt and award eligibility. President Carter even distributes the awards to the races’ top finishers. Needless to say, we didn’t make the podium when we ran, but Mr. Peanut himself was there to greet us at the finish line!
Arts and crafts events take place all day long, and there are plenty of food vendors and events for kids sprinkled throughout the day. We really enjoyed visiting the Peanut Pavilion, a trade show-style mix of exhibitors including farmers, vendors, national brands, and even the Georgia Peanut Commission!
A Pavilion highlight was trying our first-ever grilled PB&J sandwiches. We were skeptical, but they were delicious! (While they caught us by surprise, they’ve now caught on in our local food cart scene, albeit with a Portland twist to the menu!)
If you visit the Peanut Pavilion, be prepared for copious amounts of free samples. In addition to the tasty sandwiches, we were given peanuts of all sorts, peanut candies, and an education in all things peanut! Did you know that four varieties of peanuts are grown in the US? We do, thanks to the Peanut Pavilion!
Among the food vendors in the city parks was one selling boiled peanuts — another local treat that hasn’t quite made its way to the west coast. After learning that less mature, “green” peanuts are the preferred variety for boiling, we gave them a shot. Let’s just say that we preferred the grilled PB&Js!
Another new-to-us peanut treat: fried peanuts. Plain Peanuts, located on Main Street, offers free samples of a variety of flavors including cajun, lemon pepper, and garlic. Tasty — and despite already pegging our peanut ingestion meter before we walked in — good enough that we bought a few bags (and even ordered a few bags by mail after we got home!).
The peanut-packed day then continues with the Main Street Parade. Participants include small-town parade regulars such as local dignitaries, pageant princesses, horses, and old cars — along with unique-to-Plains additions the Carters and the Marine Corps band!
After the parade, both President Carter and Mrs. Carter hold book signings. Mr. Carter is a prolific author, and the long-married couple have authored a combined 35 books. The opportunity to meet a former US President is quite rare; meeting him in his home town at his late brother’s service station is unique.
As music, children’s, and arts and crafts events continue into the afternoon, the historic SAM Shortline train makes two hour-long round trip journeys to Archery, home of the Carter family farm, President Carter’s boyhood home. Part of the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site, the farm provides a glimpse of the President’s upbringing and deep roots. The festival finishes off with a dance on Main Street from 8:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Billed as part of the festival, but something that actually occurs on a regular basis in Plains, is a Sunday School class taught by President Carter at Maranatha Baptist Church. When he’s in Plains (which is often, considering that he and Rosalyn still live in their modest pre-presidential Plains home), he teaches Sunday School at 10 a.m., prior to the church’s 11 a.m. worship service. Visitors from around the world come to hear Mr. Carter, and the Carters graciously pause for photos with visitors after most services, too!
We loved the Plains Peanut Festival for its combination of small-town charm, fun events, great food, unique look at a piece of US history, and the opportunity to meet a former President.
Love peanuts but don’t live near Plains? No problem. The National Peanut Board offers a list of other peanut festivals!
Know of a festival with a unique twist? Share it in the comments, and enjoy your week or your weekend!