Thousands Flock To Jay Peanut Festival (With Photo Gallery)

October 6, 2013

The skies were sunny Saturday over Brenda Gabbert’s 56-acre farm near Jay, a far cry from the weather Tropical Storm Karen had threatened. The crowds, perhaps just a little bit smaller than most years, still made the trek to the Jay Peanut Festival.

“I describe it to people as being like an old-fashioned county fair, without the carnival rides,” said Gabbert, who has coordinated the festival with her husband, Gene, for 23 years.

“It’s all about farming and rural life. That’s what we try to show people,” she said. “It’s good for the whole family. There is something for everybody. We really cater to the kids.”

During an ordinary Jay Peanut Festival, with good weather and all, as many as 70,000 people will attend the two day event.

For a photo gallery, click here.

The festival site is a functioning farm, with 40 acres of peanuts – which is managed by a farmer who leases it from the Gabberts – and 16 acres that includes the couple’s home and a field of hay.

Their property also includes two museums – a farming museum and replica of a 1940s style John Deere dealership – as well as a fleet of restored classic tractors. All of that is incorporated into the festival.

“My husband has all of these tractors he’s restored himself,” Gabbert said. “We let other people bring their stuff if they want to show it.”

Of course, the highlight of the Peanut Festival is the versatile legume itself.  The peanut plays a vital role in Santa Rosa County agriculture. In 2011, the most recent year for which statistics are available, peanuts were the most valuable crop in the county, accounting for $22 million in gross value.

At the festival, the Jay Volunteer Fire Department has exclusive domain over the sale of boiled peanuts. The department uses the money raised to help supplement its modest public funding. Other vendors will offer green peanuts – the kind patrons take home to boil for themselves – roasted peanuts, fried peanuts, peanut brittle, baked goods with peanuts and many of the other forms the protein-packed snack can take.

In all, Gabbert had, before Tropical Storm Karen’s idle threats, expected as many as 250 vendors, including crafters, businesses, churches and other non-profit organizations.

“We gain more vendors every year and more people,” she said. “It’s getting crowded.”

Both days of the festival featred live entertainment with Christian music on Sunday that followed a church service.

The festival offered pony and horse rides, stage coach rides, hay rides, a rock climbing wall, a bungee jump, a mechanical bull, train rides and inflatable attractions.

Admission and parking at the festival were free, a point of pride for Gabbert. The festival is funded solely through vendor fees.

“We get letters from people who tell us this is the only thing they can afford to come to,” she said. “They have kids and they don’t have the money to go to things that have admission. They can come here and not spend a penny if they don’t want to.”

The Jay Peanut Festival dates to 1990 when the Gabberts started the event in memory of their daughter, Melissa, a 19-year-old who died earlier that year from cancer.

The Gabberts’ other child, Mandy Gabbert Simmons, helps with the festival. Her husband, Tony Simmons, helps get ready for the festival. However, since Simmons is the Jay fire chief, he is busy with the boiled peanuts while the festival is underway.

For a photo gallery, click here.

Pictured top: Crowds stroll through craft booths Saturday under sunny skies at the annual Jay Peanut Festival. Pictured top inset: One of the Gabbert farm museums. Pictured middle inset: The Jay Volunteer Fire Department is the sole vendor with boiled peanuts; it’s the department’s big fundraiser. Pictured bottom inset: Freshly cooked kettle corn. Pictured below: Numerous restored tractors and farm implements are on display. photos by Michelle Gibbs, click to enlarge.


4 Responses to “Thousands Flock To Jay Peanut Festival (With Photo Gallery)”

  1. Terry on October 7th, 2013 1:24 pm

    My husband carried 3 of our youngest grandchildren and they had a blast. Thanks to the Gabberts and everyone involved. He lost his grandaddy’s walking stick while there and is heartbroken. We will pay a small reward for its return. Ph 8507236919. Thanks.

  2. kathy Penton on October 7th, 2013 12:39 pm

    the Gabberts are awesome folks – such a lot of work they do to make lots of children smile- Thank you- We are blessed to have this wonderful family in our community.

  3. Kay Campbell on October 6th, 2013 10:02 am

    Thanks to The Gabberts for the many years of dedication and hard work!! We love going to The Peanut Festival and seeing the display of tractors , the vendors , the entertainment , and the awesome food….it is a highlight of our year. I am so glad to keep these traditions alive and well and I will continue to go every year.

  4. Greg on October 6th, 2013 6:27 am

    That’s my boy Levi on the tractor. He had such a great time! This is definitely one of the highlights of our year!!!!!!!!!!

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