Preparing for the multitudes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Special to the News-Herald

Robert Larry Underwood has served since 1985 as one of more than 300 volunteers who make Suffolk’s annual Peanut Fest an event that draws more than 200,000 people from up and down the east coast.

Peanut Fest takes place Oct. 7-10, and it is one of the biggest parties held in Hampton Roads with more than 200,000 people visiting the festival site, at Suffolk Executive Airport, each year.

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This year, Underwood serves as the guiding hand behind the event but he decries any credit for the planning and realization of one of the best events ever.

&uot;I want to give credit to the people who work so hard to stage this event,&uot; said Underwood. &uot;They are the backbone of this event and so many have been doing everything from cutting grass to helping put up tents and bleachers, and it is deeply appreciated. They have made a wonderful place for everyone to have a great time. Some volunteers even took a week of vacation to work as a volunteer for the Peanut Fest.&uot;

As for Underwood, he began working with the Jaycees as part of the hundreds of volunteers, eventually moving up to parking lot coordinator with Tiny Andrews, another perennial volunteer for Peanut Fest.

&uot;I have continued over the years to remain involved with Peanut Fest because of the great fellowship of everyone involved with the event,&uot; said Underwood. &uot;Some of the people, you see only once a year, but still we’re all good friends and we just enjoy doing this for our community. It’s a lot of work but it’s giving back to the community.&uot;

Again this year, Underwood said there are about 300 volunteers to assist with drawing people from everywhere to come to the event.

&uot;Everybody thinks of Suffolk as just an old bunch of farmers in a peanut town where nothing goes on,&uot; he added. &uot;I think Peanut Fest is the number one way of getting people here to see what Suffolk is really like. I’ve lived here all my life and now, it’s growing by leaps and bounds and our city has such a great deal to offer. Peanut Fest brings people here to see how exciting and historic our city is.&uot;

Promoting the city of Suffolk is not Underwood’s only goal with Peanut Fest. He‚s excited about this year‚s festival that he said he sees as the best yet thanks to many new shows and exhibitions, games and entertainment.

&uot;We kick things off with the Suffolk Ruritans sponsoring their 27th Annual Shrimp Feast and that brings in about 5,000 people just for that Thursday evening, Oct. 7,&uot; said Underwood. &uot;They serve up two and a-half tons of shrimp and some of the best music heard in Hampton Roads. The great thing is that once you leave the Shrimp Feast, you can come right on in to the Peanut Fest grounds. It all makes for a great evening of entertainment.&uot;

There will also be a live band, for the first time this year, at Peanut Fest, Underwood added. That’s not the only first, however.

Those attending Peanut Fest can look for a Horseshoe Association tournament at the festival, complete with prizes. Already, 150 people have signed up to pitch in the tournament.

&uot;Also, the city is sponsoring their &uot;Swamp Roar&uot; with the 70-mile ride around the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and that’s drawing in a lot of participants including our Mayor Bobby Ralph, Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett, Councilman Dana Dickens and others,&uot; said Underwood. &uot;Shrimp Feast used to be a separate event but then they became involved with the presentation of the Peanut Fest and everyone benefited. It’s the same this year with Swamp Roar and it should be great fun.&uot;

At the Peanut Fest grounds on Friday, Oct. 8, the excitement of &uot;Poco,&uot; a group with two former members of the &uot;Buffalo Springfield,&uot; will light up the Main Stage.

with one of their incendiary live performances.

&uot;The Edwin McCain Band&uot; will rock out the night on Saturday, Oct. 9 with some good old southern rock. On Sunday, Oct. 10, those attending the closing day of Peanut Fest will get a double dose of great talent along with many other exciting events taking place. BNA recording artist Rachel Proctor explodes onto the scene with some of the best of her debut album, &uot;Days Like This, followed by Dreamworks recording star, Jimmy Wayne. His debut album, Jimmy Wayne, is already a hit with some of the best in country music.

Look for a complete list of all the entertainment and events, and their scheduled times in the handouts available at the Peanut Fest site.