By Helena Rodriguez
Once a year, it’s OK to go nuts — peanuts, after all, are a big part of the local economy and they’re the guests of honor at Portales’ annual Peanut Valley Festival.
The 30th annual Peanut Valley Festival gets into full gear on Saturday and continues Sunday at the Eastern New Mexico University Campus Union Building.
The event, which has paid tribute to the area’s Valencia peanut for the past three decades, will include a full house of arts and crafts vendors, an array of food booths, children’s activities, live entertainment, a health fair, an organizational fair with information on non-profit and ENMU programs and a guest appearance by Buddy McNutty, a roving, over-sized peanut character.
It wouldn’t be a peanut festival without plenty of bags of home-grown, Valencia peanuts, which will be on sale at booths by various peanut companies. And according to Wayne Baker, president of the New Mexico Peanut Growers Association, it has been a good year for peanuts.
“The weather has been super for maturing the crops. Everyone is through digging and just about ready to start thrashing, which is just a little later than normal,” Baker said.
Baker said many peanuts were planted late because of hail earlier in the year, but said that has not prevented a successful season.
“This area is the main Valencia peanut-growing area,” Baker said. “We are getting a few Valencias now from West Texas, so acreage is kind of down here, but the Valencias are still being processed here.”
Baker estimates 40 to 50 million pounds of goobers are shipped out from the area every year.
About 140 vendors are expected to peddle everything from peanut brittle to boots, from furniture to knickknacks and jewelry this weekend.
“Thousands of people, I’m sure of that, attended last year’s Peanut Festival,” said Jeff Blake, program coordinator for ENMU’s Office of Student Activities and Organizations.
He said the ENMU Office of Student Activities and Organizations spends the entire year planning the two-day extravaganza.
Entertainment lined up for this year include performances by Greg Qualls, the Nata Raja Dancers, Andy Mason and Braxton Taylor and the W.E. Lindsey Middle School Sixth-Grade Honors Choir. Entertainment will be in the Ground Zero Coffee Shop in the basement level.
The health fair will be set up in the basement level as well, and will include free flu shots and blood glucose tests for people who have not eaten within a two-hour span.
“About 30 agencies will participate in the health fair, mainly so people can see what services are offered and what is new at these facilities,” said Carol Morgan, nurse manager for the Portales Public Health Office.
Children’s activities will include train rides, rock climbing and an inflatable fun house.
What: 30th annual Peanut Valley Festival
Where: Eastern New Mexico University Campus Union Building
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Events: Arts and crafts and food booths, live entertainment, children’s activities, health fair, organizational fair.
Noon to 1 p.m.: Chris Qualls (Christian music)
1 to 2 p.m.: Nata Raja Dancers
2 to 3 p.m.: Andy Mason & Braxton Taylor (Acoustic guitar duo)
3 to 4 p.m.: Nata Raja Dancers
4 to 4:30 p.m.: W.E. Lindsey Middle School Sixth Grade Honors Choir (“Grease” songs)