Turnout in thousands at annual festival

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Features Editor

Oct. 23, 2000 10 PM

BRUNDIDGE – Several thousand peanut butter and fun lovers poured into Brundidge Saturday for the 10th annual Peanut Butter Festival.

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When the rooster crowed, more than 100 hungry folks made their way to the Peanut Butter Barn for where grandma was standing over a hot stove cooking a full country-style breakfast.

Just across the street runners were stretching out and warming up for the 5K Peanut Run which followed a course that took them passed the Peanut Butter Festival grounds where there were arts and crafts, demonstrations, exhibits,

contests, games, food and non-stop entertainment which was only interrupted by the Nutter Butter Parade which featured nuts of all kinds.

Randy Ross, chairperson of the Peanut Butter Festival Committee, said the Festival was a huge success and sowed the seeds for a second decade of paying tribute to the agricultural community and the town’s proud heritage in the peanut butter industry."

"When we started the Peanut Butter Festival 10 years ago, we had an operating budget of $46 dollar," Ross said. "I think we’ve gotten a mighty good return on that investment."

The Peanut Butter Festival is sponsored each year by the Brundidge Historical Society as a way of saying "thank you" to the farming community that has provided a giant boost to the local economy since the town was founded 110 years ago.

"There are not enough words to adequately express our appreciation to those who have made the Peanut Butter Festival such a success over the years," Ross said. "From those who take part in the Festival to those who come to enjoy the day, it takes everyone."

During the 10 years of the Festival, the festival committee has learned to better appreciate the plight of the farmer.

"We know, first hand, how quickly planning, hard work and hope can be wiped away by the forces of nature," Ross said. "’We have experience freezing weather, lightning and rain, hail and even a tornado. But, through it all, we have never had to cancel a Festival. We’ve had to move it to the Peanut Butter Barn and we’ve had to end it early but we’ve never had to call it off. And, we’ve come back the next year with the hope and promise of a good year. That’s the kind of chance our farmers take every time they put a crop in the ground and, thankfully, for all of us, they weather the bad years and come back the next year with the hope and promise of a good year. I don’t know what we would do if they all decided to call it quits. So, we want to thank them and the Festival is our way of doing it."

Ross said people from all across the state and Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California were in town for the Festival.

"Many of them stopped by to say what a good time they had," he said. "People seem to appreciate the downhome atmosphere of the Peanut Butter Festival and it brings them back year-after-year."

This year there were two honest-to-goodness peanut butter lover couples in attendance.

Both couples got married on Friday night and spent part of their honeymoons at the Festival.

"I don’t know what better you can say about a festival, than that," Ross said, laughing. "We also had two very distinguished guests at the Festival this year. Two of the daughters of J. D. Johnston, founder of Johnston’s Peanut Butter Mill, made special arrangements to be here. Annette Johnston Mitchell flew in from California and she and her sister, Jesse Johnston Freeman, drove down from Atlanta. We were honored to have them and presented them with our annual Robert L. Godwin Pioneer Award. Our motto for the Johnston Mill is "In the beginning there was peanut better – and it was Good!"

Their family was the beginning of the peanut butter industry, not only in Alabama, but in the South. And it was good to have them here with us."