When you produce roughly 30,158 tons of peanuts a year there is plenty of little reasons to go nuts over the peanut.

Back in 2010, Santa Rosa County had the highest yield per acre in the state of Florida and was the number two in total peanut acreage. So there is definitely a reason to celebrate in the Town of Jay, where almost all the peanuts are grown.

Next weekend will mark the 23rd annual Jay Peanut Festival hosted at the Gabbert Farm and they definitely go a little nuts there.

The festival, which is held in memory of Gene and Brenda Gabbert's daughter Melissa who died from complications due to cancer, will offer visitors peanuts every way imaginable - green, boiled, roasted, fried, and candied on Oct. 6 and 7.

"This year we are adding the names of those in our community who recently passed away as well," Brenda Gabbert said. "People like Jack Bragg, a retired University of West Florida professor and cattle rancher. He could tell a story or joke like no other.

"There is Dearl Dixon who performed at the Peanut Festival many time and one year was in charge of entertainment. He was a friend and neighbor to many."

Others Brenda Gabbert remembered included Mollie Pilgrim who recently returned to Jay to live with her daughter, Jimmy Pospiech who was a classmate to the Gabbert's daughter Mandy, their neighbor and artist Joyce Ashcraft, as well as former Jay Tractor employee Richard Enfinger.

The Peanut Festival, which is a non-profit festival, is just one part of the larger Beaches to Woodlands celebration across Santa Rosa County, which gets underway this weekend and runs through the last weekend of October.

“The joy of fall and this tour is the opportunity we all get to enjoy fabulous, wholesome events in our own backyard,” said tour coordinator, Karen Harrell. “The tour is comparable to an extended fall festival with about 40 events and venues that touch all four corners of Santa Rosa County.”

Visitors to the Jay Peanut Festival should find something they will enjoy from the wide variety of arts, crafts, antiques, games, rides, and food booths to name a few as well as two days of live entertainment.

The best part of the weekend in Jay is that admission, parking, and contests are free.

Also on display will be the 1930's Farm Museum, 1940's John Deere dealership replica and antique shop, which will be open both days.

Ironically the museum and replica John Deere dealership were the creations of Gene Gabbert himself, who use to sell John Deere tractors as well.

Another legend that will be participating in the festival is Milton's very own Henry Botts, who opened for the late Roy Acuff at the Imogene Theater.

Botts will serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the entertainment on Saturday, which will feature country and pop music as well as other special acts, and Sunday, which will feature gospel music all day.

A couple of good country highlights for the weekend will be the pig chase at 2 p.m. on Saturday and the Pet Dress-up Parade and
Contest at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

The Jay Peanut Fest will start at 9 a.m. and run until 6 p.m. each day




To get there:
The Jay Peanut Festival at the Gabbert Farm, which is 4.5 miles south of Jay off Highway 89, at 3604 Pine Level Church Road.



Learn more about the Beaches to Woodlands Festival events this weekend on Page B1