In a state where peanuts are king, the small municipality of Brooklet stands as a paragon of success in celebrating Georgia’s signature crop.
The town’s first festival in 1990 drew more attendees than its population. Brooklet has 1,395 residents, and the inaugural Brooklet Peanut Festival attracted 2,000 revelers.
Now in its 26th year, the festival, planned by the Brooklet Community Development Association with the town’s assistance, is expected to attract upwards of 20,000 people. Many of them are repeat customers, some from as far away as California.
“It’s like a family reunion,” said Randy Newman, president of the BCDA and a 15-year city council member.
The festival, held the third Saturday in August, includes a parade, 5K run, live entertainment and a slow tractor “race” in which the last tractor to cross the finish line wins.
This year’s event boasts 24 food vendors, 77 arts and crafts vendors, 10 nonprofit booths and 15 amusement attractions. The parade will have about 100 entries.
The festival’s purpose is to raise funds for two college scholarships and a selected town improvement project. The idea was initiated by a group of women who once chatted over a canasta game about the downtown holiday decorations.
Festival proceeds have supplied funding for a downtown park, a gazebo and a fountain. This year’s profits will go toward electrical upgrades for the city-owned festival grounds.
“We decide year to year while we’re planning the festival,” said Newman. Organizers are also trying to set up a town museum in the original barbershop downtown that will highlight the town’s history and include exhibits of past peanut festivals.
Surprisingly, there are only three or four peanut festivals in Georgia, Newman said. Other celebrations have come and gone, but the Brooklet festival gets bigger every year.
He hailed the winning ingredient of the festival’s success as “a real good set of volunteers.” For example, “the high school football team comes in the next day and helps clean up. By the end of the weekend, you can’t tell we had a festival, it’s so clean.”
Extensive planning is another reason for the festival’s staying power.
“After the festival, we start the next day planning for the next year.”
For more information, visit www.brookletpeanutfestival.com.