We’re a sucker for small town festivals. So when we saw that Plains, Georgia – population 683 – was holding its annual peanut festival this past weekend and we were only a few minutes away in nearby Leesburg, we made our way there.
We ended up learning a lot about peanuts and even spotted the 39th President of the United States, Jimmy Carter – who has remained in his hometown of Plains and, despite being 91 years old (on Oct. 1) and undergoing chemo for cancer, is still out and about and meeting people.
We parked our Roadtrek a block off main street and made our way downtown, passing lawn signs saying “Jimmy Carter for Cancer Survivor.”
We found the former president down at the train station, first presenting local kids awards for their art work and, a little later on, handing out medals to the winners of the Peanut Festival fun run. In the afternoon, he signed copies of the many books he wrote down at Billy Carter’s Gas Station, where the long dead colorful kid brother of the president once hung out, spoke his mind, and drank beer.
A few weeks ago Carter announced he had brain cancer. If it’s slowing him down, it sure isn’t obvious. Dressed in blue jeans, a grayish blue workshop and wearing the broad grin that he is so famous for, the president greeted kids and adults and seemed to throughly enjoy his hometown’s annual fall festival dedicated to the official state crop of the state of Georgia.
That’s right. Peanuts, not peaches, are Georgia’s official crop and Plains is in the heart of the state’s peanut belt.
Georgia accounts for almost 47 percent of peanut production in the U.S., over 1.2 million tons. And they had to have given away about a ton of them during the Plains festival. We had boiled peanuts (a Southern delicacy), hot and spicy peanuts, creole peanuts, deep fried salted redskin peanuts (my favorite) and peanut ice cream.
The Georgia Peanut Queen handed out free toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the Plains Community Center, where their were also free PB&Js on white bread, M&Ms (the peanuts M&Ms use are Georgia peanuts roasted in nearby Albany) and assorted other peanut product giveaways.
We wandered outside, where there were vendors selling hats, trinkets, barbecue, homemade quilts and locally made arts and crafts. There was a late morning Saturday parade and, on the Saturday night of the Peanut Festival, a street dance.
Sunday morning, everyone was invited to the Maranatha Baptist Church, where, at 10 a.m. sharp just like he does most Sundays, Jimmy Carter will teach Sunday school.