By Kevin Wilson
CNJ staff writer
The Roosevelt County Fairgrounds offers a chance to grab something to eat, dance to local musicians and fill the Christmas stockings without fretting about a Black Friday that’s a month away.
Or, for brevity’s sake, it’s time to go nuts.
The 40th running of the Peanut Valley Festival, in its second year at the county fairgrounds after a long run at Eastern New Mexico University, drew a solid crowd despite cold weather early on Saturday.
“I think it’s much easier for the walkers, and it’s easier to set up for the vendors,” event organizer Karl Terry, director of the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce, said about the fairgrounds location. “(Parking) was a trouble spot last year, but we’ve got the track team from Eastern New Mexico University helping out some. It’s gone much smoother.”
Terry said attendance felt like it would be about the same as last year’s estimate of 4,000 to 5,000 people. No official attendance is kept for the event, which carries no admission charge. The festival runs 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
In all, 125 vendors are taking part in the festival, which is in most cases made up of craft sellers inside and food vendors lined up around the concrete slab, where Roosevelt County native Theta Ainsworth and her Lubbock-based band 9 Mile Creek performed for the afternoon crowd.
On the inside, Mikel Edwards of Amarillo was at his fourth go-around in the festival. His was one of the more distinctive, with wooden animals that produced animal-like sounds when he ran a stick along the grooves of a wooden frog.
“I like the people,” Edwards said as he strummed his handmade carving to create a cricket chirp sound. “I get to do this and see the people.”
Edwards said the event wasn’t perfect, noting that the dirt floors posed some problems for vendors, but he had much more space at the fairgrounds than at ENMU and every festival gives him the opportunity to sell to people who might have otherwise never heard of him or his Blue Rose Trading Company.
Vendors items ranged from clothing to books to jewelry to pottery and even haircare.
“We tout it as a way to start your Christmas shopping early,” Terry said. “You can go over to the R. Diane Martinez booth and find her black pottery. It’s just gorgeous stuff. You can’t find that kind of thing anywhere else.”
Robert Martinez, husband of artist Diane, manned the booth and asked about specific local families when told he was talking with a local reporter.
“We’ve been at this festival 35 years,” Martinez said of the booth that features artwork that has won nearly three dozen New Mexico State Fair best of fair awards over the years. “We have a lot of return customers here. You feel at home here.”
Other events included a morning 5K race and a Peanut Olympics with peanut sack races and bean bag and ring tosses.
The bankruptcy filing from Sunland, Inc. last week had some impact on the event. Terry said he got out-of-town calls from people who had concerns the plant closure meant the large peanut bags wouldn’t be sold.
Terry said that definitely was not the case, and that the Portales Woman’s Club continues to use that as one of its biggest fundraisers.
Also, musician Andy Mason was taking donations for the 100-plus employees who lost their jobs with the plant closure.