Mr. Peanut’s fans will come to visit

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 11, 2005

This year, it was Las Vegas.

Next year, it’s Atlanta.

Then Mr. Peanut’s fan club is coming home, back to where the leggy legume known worldwide as the Planters Peanuts icon got his start.

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The Peanut Pals – an organization of nearly 500 collectors of Planters Peanuts memorabilia from around the country – is holding its annual convention at the Suffolk Hilton Garden Inn and Conference Center in July 2007.

The group – which has no official connection to Planters or its parent company, Nabisco Foods – hasn’t been to Suffolk for nearly two decades.

&uot;We’re looking forward to coming back to Suffolk,&uot; said Anthony Scola, a Philadelphia radiologist, avid Planters collector and president of Peanut Pals. &uot;It sounds like there is a lot going on in downtown right now.&uot;

Patrick Evan-Hylton, a former Suffolk author who has compiled a pictorial book on peanuts, and other local representatives made Suffolk an easy choice for the group, Scola said.

&uot;We were on the phone with Patrick for hours,&uot; he added. &uot;He was selling it big time.&uot;

Suffolk isn’t as large as many cities that have traditionally hosted the Peanut Pal conventions, which traditionally draw about 125 collectors and their families.

&uot;It will be nice being in a smaller, more walkable downtown,&uot; Scola said.

He is hopeful club members will have an opportunity to tour Planters’ local plant and visit several local sites related to the company’s founder, Amedeo Obici.

But Suffolk didn’t prevail just because of the Planters connection.

Equally enticing was the lure of the nearby Jamestown 2007 festivities, which has events across the state to mark the country’s 400th anniversary that year.

&uot;The activities that will be going on around that part of Virginia at that time were also a draw,&uot; Scola said. &uot;Most people attending the national conventions build their vacations around the trip.&uot;

Parts of the convention – which includes a swap meet and auction of Planters’ memorabilia – will be open to the community, Scola said.

&uot;It’s a nice way to meet people in the area,&uot; he said. Frequently, particularly in areas where Planters has such as vibrant history, former employees will show up, sharing recollections and memorabilia packed away over the years.

For more information on the Peanut Pals, check out the organization’s Web site,