DUBLIN — Along with the usual excitement, there was a degree of sadness Saturday as the 25th annual Dublin Peanut Festival unfolded. The buzz along N,C. 87 during the kickoff parade was that this would be the last festival.
“We’ve been to every festival since the beginning, and we definitely wanted to be here for the final one,” said Cynthia Lee-Grimes. “This festival has always brought the community together, and it’s really helped the Dublin school.”
Lee-Grimes was one of five former Dublin Elementary School teachers — along with Laurie Smith, Betty Mitchell, Sylvia White-Jacobs and Veronica Cato — who clumped together on a corner to watch the parade.
“This community will really miss this festival if it really is the last one,” Mitchell said. “Just look at this crowd. It’s like this every year.”
With a warm blue sky and puffy white clouds above, the festival kicked off with its usual throng of people on both sides of N.C. 87 as the parade passed by. Children and adults alike charged into the street as candy was flung from fire trucks, floats and cars. Entries from West Bladen and East Bladen high schools, the Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy and several churches were part of the procession, as was cartoon characters like Spider Man, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and others.
Once the parade was over, the crowd flocked to Dublin Primary School to take in the classic car and truck show, numerous vendor booths, carnival rides, food vendors and the entertainment stage that saw Too Much Sylvia and The ToneZ keep folks clapping their hand, tapping their feet and even up dancing to the music.
But the rumors that the Dublin peanut Festival might fade away after Saturday could be heard in several areas of the school grounds, from the cafeteria where the barbecue plate sales was going on to the vendor area and out near the rides.
“Sad, it’s just really sad if they can’t keep this going,” said Jeremy Ball of St. Pauls. “My family and I have enjoyed this festival for many years. It’s probably the best festival we have in this area.”
“I’ll say this … we’d rather come here than go to the Cumberland County Fair,” said Lisa Baldwin of Hope Mills. “It’s just a nice little festival.”
Bobbie Todd, an organizer and committee member for all 25 years of the Peanut Festival, said she and her husband Donnie, who served as president, recently announced their resignation — and that sparked the talk that the festival would end.
“All but one committee member voted to end the festival, so I’m not sure what will happen now,” she said. “I guess we’ll see, but I just know that Donnie and I have done all we could; it’s just time for us to move on.”
Todd added that, if new leadership does step in and try to continue the festival, “we could help with answers to questions.” She also said they would continue to be part of the annual fish fry and oyster roast, and are thinking about a new Christmas event for Dublin.
If there was an added pall put over the festival on Saturday, it was the announcement that the annual kiddie tractor pull contest — an afternoon icon of the festival — had been eliminated because the miniature John Deere tractors had been stolen recently.
“This was always fun to watch,” said Terry Johnson of Tar Heel as he stood looking at the tractor-pull track. “I hope they find those tractors and who took them.”
Despite the sadness of the day, the Dublin Peanut Festival still attracted hundreds of people from throughout the region and provided them all with a day full of fun.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.