Riding green metal John Deere tractor replicas, knees to their chins, children pumped their legs with fury Saturday afternoon at the Brooklet Peanut Festival.
The kiddie pedal tractor race was only one of several events that drew a crowd to the small town. Grown tractor enthusiasts took their turns “racing” too — if the slow tractor race can actually be considered a race. The goal is to see how slow a tractor can chug along without choking down and stopping — and the first one to the finish line loses.
Across the festival site, beyond the rows of vendors, a new metal-roofed shelter provided a cool spot for visitors as local singers and bands performed on a newly-constructed stage. A huge fan stirred the air, adding to a slight breeze that helped lessen the steamy August heat.
The grounds were littered with peanut shells as people enjoyed the treat for which the festival is known; boiled peanuts. Vendors offered hot, fresh and salty boiled peanuts as well as roasted and even fried peanuts.
Vendor Amanda Moore and her partner, Tootie Hickman, sat underneath a tent as they sold flip flops, hair accessories and handmade jewelry. “We do it just for fun,” Moore said. “We get to see all the people, a lot of people we went to school with.”
Hickman said she thinks the Brooklet Peanut Festival — in its 23rd year — brings a great deal to the community.
“It brings a lot of people to this one-caution light town who wouldn’t ordinarily come,” she said.
Live entertainment, free of charge, kept people happy throughout the day, and regional celebrity Frank “Freight Train” Mills made his presence known as he danced around in a wizard’s hat, baggy overalls with an assortment of earrings and pins decorating his person.
Mills, 72, from Cobbtown, is known for his contorted facial expressions and the way he can imitate a lonely train whistle. When a young man asked how he did it, he quipped “I was run over by a train.”
Some wandered amid vendor tents while others lined up for hamburgers, hot dogs, funnel cakes, cold drinks and more. Some visitors rested on benches and chairs while they enjoyed the music, and the atmosphere was so “down home” that some kicked off their shoes and made themselves comfortable on the ground.
Margaret Crosby brought her children and friends to the festival. She enjoyed the parade most, and said she appreciates the way the event brings people into Brooklet, a normally sleepy little town.
“It’s hot, but I come every year so I guess it’s worth it,” she said, laughing. “I’ve seen some people I haven’t seen in years.”
Al Roland and his family moved to Statesboro from Florence, SC and Saturday was his second trip to the festival. He remarked on how excited Brooklet residents seemed to be as they prepared for the event Friday, and during the parade and day’s activities Saturday.
“This is neat,” he said. “Very nice for the community.”
The festival ended with a street dance Saturday night featuring Randy “Hat Man” Smith and the Magic Rocks Band.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.