The National Peanut Festival, held each fall in Dothan, Houston County, celebrates the harvest season and honors the region's peanut industry. The celebration recognizes the important impact the peanut has had in the Southeast. Known as the Peanut Capital of the World, the Dothan area produces more than 65 percent of all peanuts produced in the United States, making it the ideal location for the National Peanut Festival. The first peanut festival was held on November 10, 1938. The three-day event featured special guest George Washington Carver, agricultural pioneer and head of Tuskegee Institute's experiment station who was known worldwide for the more than 300 uses he found for peanuts. The festival also included a pageant, a parade, a historical play, and a grand ball.
In 1940, the American Legion Chester R. Vickery Post No. 12 sponsored the festival, and in 1941, the organization brought in cadets from the Advanced Flying School at Dothan's Napier Field for an abbreviated version of the festival. The festival has been celebrated annually except for 1945 and 1946 because of the war and was revived by the Jaycees in 1947. By 1953, the National Peanut Festival had grown so large that organizers added a carnival to help finance the event. In the mid-1950s, the festival formed its own association under the leadership of the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce. In the 1970s, the association became independent of the chamber. Today, the National Peanut Festival association has three employees and has a 35-member board of directors that consists of community, business, and industry leaders.
Over the years, the National Peanut Festival has been held in numerous locations, including the Houston County Farm Center. In 1993, the National Peanut Festival purchased 150 acres with loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on U.S. Highway 231 in Dothan, from Broma Adams, wife of a former National Peanut Festival president. In 1999, the event was officially moved from the farm center to the new grounds, where it continues to be held. Six other major events are held there, including regional and state rallies, music festivals, and the largest trade shows for peanuts and cotton in the area.
Today, the National Peanut Festival has grown to become the largest peanut festival in the nation. Now a 10-day event, welcoming more than 163,000 visitors from throughout the world, the festival relies on a volunteer force of more than 500 individuals. Visitors enjoy carnival rides, livestock shows, agricultural displays, live music, arts & crafts, pageants, food, and plenty of peanuts. Whereas the festival is held each fall, the date varies between the end of October and the beginning of November.
Published September 29, 2008
Last updated April 4, 2012