Dothan, AL - Thousands of senior citizens walked through the national peanut festival gate Thursday. Many have been coming to festival their entire lives.
"Been coming a long time. I'm 82 now. It was real fun we just ride and enjoyed it," said Thelma Russ, Newville.
"We saved all year to come. We saved our nickels and dimes. We did everything they'd let us do," said Nadine Fuller, Elba.
"I had a great time. Had to run us out. I enjoyed the peanuts games music. I like to dance," said Mary Moniminec, Donaldsonville.
"The rides, they used to have one called the bullet years ago. It was really a lot of fun," said Craig Netherlands, Newville.
This is the 69th annual festival, and it has grown over the past seven decades.
" To go from a 3 day event to a parade, Dr. Carver as our special guest speaker that year to today which is about a month long festival," said Carrie Cavander, National Peanut Festival Office Manager.
You could call Carrie a historian of the festival. She showed off old pictures, the first Miss Peanut's dress, and even the first program for the festival from 1938.
"We have come a long way," said Cavander.
A long way indeed. The festival's fairgrounds moved from the Houston County Farm Cener to its current location in 1999. Many senior's say today's festival is much different.
"It has changed a lot. They used to have burlesque slows. We'd sneak and try to peak into the tent," said Jimmy Newton, Dothan.
"It was much smaller in the beginning. They didn't have as many food exhibits," said Edna Smart, Elba.
The parade has also grown. It used to roll down Foster Street. The first parade had only 34 floats and 5 bands.
"You used to go early to find a good place. They didn't have chairs. You say where you could. We'd go down to the hotel and sit on the fire escape to watch it," said Newton.
Leaders hope the festival continues to evolve as long as the focus stays on agriculture.