A Volunteering Tradition: The National Peanut Festival

By: Victoria Rosa Email
By: Victoria Rosa Email

The Peanut Festival is in it's 70th year and Kay Ivey and Johnny Middlebrooks say the festival fairgrounds have become their second homes.

A tradition of friends, family and fun, a lot of the festivities would not be possible without loyal volunteers.

And those who've been there from then until now say they can still remember where it all began.

"It use to start out there on the corner of North Foster and 7th Street and come down South St. Andrews. It's grown just so big now," said Johnny Middlebrooks, volunteer at the National Peanut Festival.

"As a child, I always went to the peanut festival and when I married, my husband farms, we raise cows and it's just, it's second nature," said Kay Ivey, volunteer at the National Peanut Festival.

Middlebrooks has been volunteering with the peanut festival for 47 years with the parade committee and Ivey for more than 20 years in the livestock department.

A combined 67 years of volunteer service , almost as long as the peanut festival has been in existence.

Both say although they remember the older festivals like yesterday, they see how much it's grown.

"The bands was the biggest thing back those days, with a few floats and military marching. We use to have the possum king and queen. They drove an old model a Ford," said Middlebrooks.

"We use to do everything by hand, now we use a computer, just little things like that are different," said Ivey.

A difference that hasn't changed the reason why these two dedicate their time.

"This community has been so good to me, I want to give back to my community. It's fun to see the kids get real excited about it. It brings out the kid in all of us I think," said Middlebrooks.

"We just need to keep the youth of today involved in agriculture if we can because they are our future," said Ivey.

Both say they'll continue to volunteer as long as possible.

"As long as I am physically able," said Middlebrooks.

"Who knows we'll see," said Ivey.

These are only two of over 5,000 volunteers the peanut festival has this year.

The National Peanut Festival runs Nov. 1st through Nov. 10th.

For all things festival, including event times and tickets, you can visit nationalpeanutfestival.com.


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