As the peanut harvest arrives to the Alabama, Georgia, and Florida tri-states; people gear up for an enormous event that is held each year to celebrate the important role peanuts play in Southeast Alabama, known by locals as the "Wiregrass" area. During this time, residents also extend a salute to the actual peanut producers of this crop for their continued hard work and dedication in producing this healthy and tasty nut.
Known as the "Peanut Capital of the World," Dothan, Alabama, is a prime location for producing peanuts. In fact, if you're in Dothan, you're in the heart of peanut country considering this area produces more than 65% of all the peanuts produced in the United States.
There is no doubt that peanuts play a vital role in this area and with that in mind, let's take a look at the history of the National Peanut Festival.
A festival honoring the peanut was inaugurated in 1938 on a near freezing Thursday, November 10. The three day event included a pageant, a parade, a historical play, and a grand ball. The honored guest speaker was a modest, unassuming man from Tuskegee Institute who gained international fame with his development of over 300 products from the peanut, Dr. George Washington Carver.
In 1940, the Chester R. Vickery Post No. 12 of the American Legion sponsored the peanut festival and cadets from the new Advance Flying School at Napier Field were featured in the 1941 shortened version of the festival.
The peanut festival was celebrated annually through 1941. During the years of World War II, the festival was not held, but in 1947, the Jaycees presented the first post-war festival and has continued every year since.
By 1952, the National Peanut Festival had expanded to the degree that the Chamber of Commerce no longer had sufficient time to sponsor and oversee the event. After the 1953 National Peanut Festival, it was decided that a carnival should be included to help finance the annual event.
Although the festival has been held in various locations, with most of its past years at he Houston County Farm Center, the NPF purchased 150 acres located on U. S. Highway 231 in 1993 from Mrs. Broma Adams, whose late husband was president of the NPF in 1963. The move from the farm center to the new location took place in 1999, with a large celebration and festival activities centered around the appropriate theme, "A Peanut Premiere."
Today, the National Peanut Festival has grown from a three-day event in the late 30's, to a ten-day event with attendance in excess of 163,000 visitors to the fairgrounds. With such an enormous event, the NPF has more than 500 volunteers who give countless hours to the festival in order to continue its success. The peanut, peanut growers, and the entire Wiregrass agriculture industry is to be commended for their dedication and for giving the area a reason for celebrating such an important economic product.