Williston celebrates peanuts


Jaxon Thornton, 18 months old, pretends to drive an antique tractor at the Williston Peanut Festival on Saturday.

Max Reed/Correspondent
Published: Saturday, October 1, 2011 at 5:32 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 1, 2011 at 5:32 p.m.

Williston — In terms of sales, Saturday's Williston Peanut Festival was pretty small peanuts for Doyle Shamblin, but he wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Shamblin, from Belleview in southern Marion County, owns seven peanut sales trucks under the name Steve's Famous Peanuts. He boils and roasts his own legumes and sends his trucks throughout the Southeast. He sells about 200,000 pounds a year, and they are all grown in the Williston area.

"It's been a good day. We're selling lots of peanuts today," Shamblin said. "The people from the South like boiled, the people from the North like roasted. And we sell a lot of redskin peanuts. Just about everybody likes some kind peanut, and those who don't like peanut butter."

The peanut festival, held the first Saturday in October for 23 years, is the major fundraiser for the Williston Chamber of Commerce. This year's iteration was the biggest in term of vendors and crowds, said chamber Executive Director Mary Kline.

About 135 vendors — selling clothing, crafts, food, jewelry and other times — lined seven blocks of downtown Williston along U.S. 41. A kids' area included carnival rides and other activities. Meanwhile, a king and queen of the festival were chosen.

"It's probably the biggest event we've had to date," Kline said. "We've expanded the number of vendors. We estimate we usually have between 5,000 and 7,000 people, but this year I think we exceeded that by quite a bit."

Williston and Levy County were once the largest peanut producer in the South and now rank fourth, Kline said. Peanuts, along with watermelon and cattle, are still a major industry for Williston and the surrounding area, she added.

Not only does Williston produce a lot of peanuts, they are good goobers, Shamblin said. His next big event will be the Georgia State National Fair in Perry — an 11-day extravaganza at which he sells a lot of peanuts.

But Shamblin does not buy many peanuts in Georgia, which is a major growing state.

"I don't want to talk bad about Georgia, but Williston peanuts are better," Shamblin said.

And peanuts are a star of the show at the festival. Peanuts are in art, on clothing. There are peanut statues and products made from peanuts.

Jim Carr was buying bags of them at the request of his wife and niece.

A native of Illinois, Carr said he had never tried boiled peanuts until a few years ago.

"I've been commanded to come here and buy plenty of boiled peanuts," he said. "I'm a transplanted Southerner. Boiled peanuts — they're different."

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