Where have National Peanut Festival events been held over the years?
Q: Where have National Peanut Festival events been held over the years?
A: The celebration of the region’s peanut industry and harvest season has changed dramatically since the first festival in 1938.
This inaugural celebration lasted three days and did not include a carnival, which was added in 1953 to help fund the festivities.
The first festival kicked off Thursday, November 10 at 6:30 p.m. with a banquet at the Houston Hotel in downtown Dothan.
At 8 p.m., 20 girls representing cities in southeast Alabama, northwest Florida and southwest Georgia entered a contest at Wiregrass Memorial Stadium to become the festival’s first queen.
At 8:30 p.m., the first of three nightly presentations of a historical pageant called “Parade of the Years” depicting the founding and development of Dothan and Houston County was held at the stadium.
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At 11 a.m. Friday, a parade with 34 floats, five marching bands, marching units and novelties, and led by the Chester R. Vickery Post, American Legion, was held in downtown Dothan.
The mile-long parade took a route to West Main to Oates Street, north to Newton, east to Foster, south to Main and east to at the Bay Line depot.
At 3 p.m., Dr. George Washington Carver, a Tuskegee Institute agricultural scientist known for the more than 300 uses he found for peanuts, gave an illustrated talk at the stadium. About 6,000 people heard the presentation.
At 8 p.m., the second performance of the “Parade of the Years” took place at the stadium. At 10 p.m., at the grand ball and dance held at the National Guard Armory, Elizabeth Johnson of Headland was crowned queen of the festival and Alto V. Lee III, president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce of Dothan, was crowned king.
At 11am on Saturday, prizes were presented to the winners of the Queen’s Pageant and paraded through Dothan Town Hall. At 8 p.m., the third presentation of the historic spectacle took place at the stadium.
The annual celebration was held until 1940, but was postponed in 1941 until after World War II. The first post-war festival was presented in 1947 by the Jaycees and the Chamber of Commerce.
In 1950, festival president Eustace Bishop Sr. had a banner year: Miss America attended the festival, Dothan and western film star Johnny Mack Brown rode his horse in the parade, and country music singer Eddie Arnold appeared in concert.
In 1952, the Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution making the National Peanut Festival a non-profit organization with a board of directors.
In 1953, the festival’s first carnival was held at Wiregrass Stadium. The carnival included 10,000 square feet of rides, shows, and exhibits and was open afternoons and evenings. It offered free entry at the door and 10-cent kiddie rides on weekdays until 5 p.m.
That year, the festival ran from Monday, October 19 through Saturday, October 24, and included weekday luncheons at the Houston Hotel honoring outstanding farmers from five area counties.
Monday’s Rotary Club luncheon had a Coffee County farmer as the guest of honor. Tuesday’s Kiwanis Club lunch honored a Dale County farmer, Wednesday’s Exchange Club lunch honored a Geneva County farmer, Thursday’s Junior Chamber of Commerce lunch honored honoring a Henry County farmer and Friday’s Lions Club luncheon honored a Houston County farmer. .
Events on Monday included the 50-piece Camp Rucker Military Band, a nursery-themed nighttime parade that began at the intersection of West Main and Lena streets and continued east to Range Street, and a gospel song featuring six of the best gospel songs in the South. quartets at the stadium.
On Tuesday, a free-to-all-trooper musical variety show with 12 acts featuring performers from Combined Army Camps Southeast was held at Wiregrass Stadium, a bait-throwing contest was held in the 200 block of North Foster Street, and the selection for Dothan’s “Woman of the Year” was held at the Houston Hotel Ball Room.
On Wednesday, the recipe competition was held at the city auditorium, the soldiers-only variety show was performed twice at Wiregrass Stadium, and street dancing took place in the 100 and 200 blocks of North Foster Street. from 8 p.m. to midnight.
Johnny Mack Brown arrived at Dothan Municipal Airport on Thursday, a soapbox derby was held on South Saint Andrews Street from Lafayette Street two and a half blocks north, Brown awarding prizes to the winner and runners-up, the Dothan High School Class of 1933 held their reunion at the Houston Hotel Ball Room, and a fashion show featuring Maids of Cotton was held at Wiregrass Stadium.
Beauty queens from the Wiregrass towns arrived Friday morning, the Maxwell Air Force Base Band performed a concert at the courthouse, the National Peanut Festival recognition banquet was held at the Houston Hotel Ball Room, and the National Peanut Festival Beauty Pageant was held at the stadium.
The National Peanut Festival parade, with more than 25 groups and 50 floats, began at 11 a.m. Saturday. Other events included an amateur photography contest, a mass orchestra concert at the stadium, and the Queen’s Ball at the Dothan Recreation Center (now called the Doug Tew Recreation Center) on the northeast corner of Alice and Garland streets.
In 1956, the National Peanut Festival was accredited by the Association of Alabama Fairs, which authorized the festival to receive state assistance for holding an agricultural fair, livestock shows, and industrial and commercial exhibitions. .
In 1958, festival events took place over seven days, Monday October 20 to Sunday October 26, Monday was Grand Ole Opry day, with a Hula Hoop contest at 4 p.m. on Foster Street, the opening of the fair at Wiregrass Stadium. at 6 p.m., the Grand Ole Opry Show at 7:30 p.m. and a square dance beginning at 10 p.m. at the Alabama Pea Pickers Recreation Hall.
On Tuesday, all exhibits were judged from 9 a.m. The doors to the show opened at 1 p.m. and the annual banquet for the selection of Woman of the Year and Man of the Year was held at the Air Force Armory on Airport Road (now called Westgate Parkway) . The scramble of the calves, the fat pig competition, the fat pole competition and the cutting horse competition took place at the stadium from 7:30 p.m.
The fair opened at 1 p.m. on Wednesday and a fashion show and fireworks display took place at the stadium that evening.
A Sacred Harp Sing was held Thursday at 10 a.m. at the county courthouse. A soapbox derby, jointly sponsored by the National Peanut Festival and the Boy Scouts of America and open to Cub Scouts, was held that afternoon in the 100, 200 and 300 blocks of South Saint Andrews Street. Prizes included a bike, camera, sleeping bag, tent and air mattress.
The fair opened at 4 p.m. at the stadium and the beauty pageant started at 7:30 p.m.
On Friday, the fair opened and a football parade took place at 4 p.m. The Little Miss Peanut pageant, a new event that year, was held at 4:30 p.m. in the 200 block of North Foster Street. Jo Carol Williams, from Dothan, won this first competition.
Dothan High School played Vigor High School in a football game at the stadium that night, and the National Peanut Festival helped out with a massive halftime show that included the White Knights precision drill team of the Marion Military Institute.
At 11 a.m. Saturday, the parade which included Miss America took place and the fair opened at the stadium at noon. A mass concert featuring 22 high school bands played in the stadium that afternoon and the Queen’s Ball was held that evening at the leisure centre.
On Sunday, an invitational men’s golf tournament was held at Dothan Country Club and a sports car race sanctioned by the Sports Car Club of America and sponsored by the Dothan Jaycees was held at Napier Field.
In 1959, the National Peanut Festival moved to the Houston County Farm Center. In 1964, $5,000 was donated by the festival to the Houston County Farm Center to build a cattle barn. In 1982, a groundbreaking was held for the festival’s permanent fire office at the Houston County Farm Center.
Except for the parade and a few other activities, the Farm Center was the site of most festival events until 1999, when the festival moved to its current location on US 231 South. 1990 festival president Allen Wells initiated a property search and in 1993 the festival purchased 150 acres on US 231 South from Mrs. Broma Adams, whose late husband was festival president in 1963.
In 2004, a 59,000 square foot arena was built and the festival purchased an additional 50 acres to use for the south parking lot. The following year, the Greased Pigs and Calves race was brought back as the new arena could safely accommodate the events.
In 2010 the festival built a permanent office on the fairgrounds. In 2011, a ticket office was added to the main entrance to the fairgrounds. In 2013 Kiddie Land was expanded and expanded again the following year.
In 2015, the unused Rodeo Country Arena on the south lot was demolished to make way for additional parking. Due to record rainfall of over 8 inches, the fairgrounds did not open on Sunday, November 8. The two grassy parking lots were rendered unusable for most of the week.
In 2016, it was decided to pave 32 acres of parking lots. In 2020 the festival was canceled due to COVID-19, but an additional 68 adjacent acres were purchased for future growth.