Grandma and the band

Published 8:11 pm Saturday, October 2, 2010

So the run-up to the Peanut Festival has begun.

With the unofficial kickoff of the Queen’s Luncheon on Thursday, Suffolk began stretching its legs in preparation for its annual party in honor of the little legume that made the city famous.

For those who didn’t attend that program, though, things really seemed to get rolling Saturday morning with the rumble of a dozen or so police motorcycles moving down E. Washington Street and onto N. Main. Those bikes were the vanguard of one of downtown Suffolk’s favorite events, the Peanut Festival parade, with dozens of entrants and hundreds of participants.

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There’s nothing quite like a walk down the Broad Street sidewalk in the hour or so before the parade begins, as performers and other participants cinch up their belts, don their hats, warm up their instruments and do whatever else it takes to get their acts ready for the walk ahead of them. There’s an air of excitement and anticipation in the air that makes it clear many participants are completely oblivious to just what a long march there is ahead of them.

It’s always fun for an irreverent guy like me to watch for the unexpected reactions during the parade. Sure, it’s nice to see little Sissy raptly watching the passing marching bands from her perch on Daddy’s shoulders. But watching Daddy hurry to get her away from the approaching clown — it turns out not everyone LIKES clowns — or the man in the great big dog costume is something you don’t get to see every day.

And the fun continues this week, as the Shrimp Feast marks the opening of the Peanut Festival grounds. The Atlanta Rhythm Section will provide the music, and a whole generation or two of attendees will be surprised when they see that it’s not a drum group. There will be plenty of shrimp to be had. And I’ve heard they have shrimp, too.

Oh, did I mention the shrimp?

Finally, on Friday, the Festival moves into full swing, with tons of events — peanut-related and otherwise — to please Mom, Dad and the kids. Bring Grandma and Grandpa, too. Just be sure to watch out for them around the band. As funny as it might seem at the time, it would probably be embarrassing to have to hear Grandma tell the story over Christmas dinner about that time she crowd-surfed onto the stage at a Molly Hatchet show in Suffolk.