Grapeland, Texas- The Queen City of the Sand Flats is ready to host the 70th Annual Peanut Festival. Known for its elaborate floats and carnival atmosphere, the Grapeland Chamber of Commerce will hold its 70th Annual Peanut Festival, themed “Great American Literature” this weekend.
This year’s goober festival kicks off today, Friday, October 16, and will continue through Saturday. The annual event is expected to bring close to 5,000 to the small town in Houston County.
Friday, October 16
The carnival will open tonight from 6p.m. until midnight.
Homecoming festivities kick off this evening at Sandie Stadium at 7p.m.
Jerrett Zoch and the OSR Band will perform on the bandstand at the Grapeland City Park, from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. tonight.
Saturday, October 17
Saturday, October 17, festivities will begin with the annual Peanut Festival Parade down Main Street, beginning at 10 a.m. After the parade the crowd will migrate to the city park to enjoy the festival in full. Complete with arts, crafts, music, carnival and fair food. Live music will be provided by Texas Rebellion and Johnnie Helm.
The grand finale will take place Saturday evening with the crowning of the 70th Annual Peanut Queen during the Queen’s Coronation at 6 p.m. in the Lorena Shoultz Auditorium. Past Peanut Queens will be honored in the parade, with a Queen’s Tea, and in a special pageant presentation of 70 years of queen on Saturday night.
Grapeland Peanut Festival History
Grapeland’s first attempt in 1913 to develop an annual celebration has long since faded from memory, however it didn’t involve peanuts. Rather a marsupial common, if not distinctive to East Texas, became the centerpiece of the community’s festival.
The first Annual Grapeland Possum Walk, a two day event, is said to have drawn a crowd of 5,000 plus visitors, that poured into town by way of the Model T , morning trains, and horse drawn buggies. Approximately 200 possums that had been previously captured for the event were corralled at the starting point of the possum walk way that was constructed for the event.
The possums completed their procession, a moment of glory, after which they became possum stew with sweet potatoes, and barbecue. The following day, Grapeland townspeople and visitors enjoyed the possum dishes, of which many considered to be an East Texas delicacy.
The Possum walk even inspired a poem.
Thank the Lord for all He sends us,
That’s the best and wisest plan,
Makes me laugh to think of possums
trottin’ in this Grapeland sand,
Poor ol’ possum, he was ignorant,
Didn’t seem to understand
Why he was a-bein’ punished, trottin in
That Grapeland sand.
But you bet they had to do it, and I’ll tell
You it was grand,
Just come down that road a-grinning’;
Trottin through that Grapeland sand.
Next then came dem sweet potatoes,
They raise them to beat the band,
You can’t beat them on potatoes, raised
Up there in Grapeland sand.
Let’s be thankful we are living, let our
Troubles be forgotten,
When you’re blue and discontented,
Think of Grapeland’s possum trottin’.
Possum walks, turkey trots, and fairs were nothing new to Grapeland by 1945, but it was time for a change of pace. Peanuts had become the biggest crop production in the area, as the sandy soil proved to be ideal for growing peanuts. It seemed only fitting that the end of the local peanut harvest be celebrated with a festival. The Grapeland Chamber of commerce began planning for the event, which has proved over the last 66 years to be a a success.
The Grapeland Peanut Festival, first called the annual “Goober Carnival,” was inaugurated Sept. 27, 1945. The festival over the years has grown into a major harvest time production, despite the decline of peanuts actually harvested in the area.
The Goober Carnival made its debut on a Thursday evening, with a banquet of various peanut products that were served to some 400 people. Friday afternoon a fiddler’s contest was held, with fiddlers, fiddle bands and quartets vying for the title. That night the first Peanut Queen Coronation was held, in which Frankie Lois Richardson was crowned the first Queen.
The first festival was claimed to be a great success for Grapeland, and peanut growers, even though the following week local growers lost thousands of dollars due to heavy rains that saturated the crops causing a massive crop failure. The rains may have doused the crops, but local’s spirits were not dampened. The Goober Carnival continued for the next six years.
In 1951, the Goober Carnival ended, and the Peanut Festival was born. The Peanut Festival has stood the test of time, and continues to draw in visitors, as well as call home those who have ventured off.