Goodbye and good job

Published 9:30 pm Thursday, May 12, 2011

Suffolk’s annual Peanut Festival has always been the product of the dedication of hundreds of volunteers committed to providing their city with a four-day annual event that is entertaining and educational — a great place to bring the kids and grandma both for good food, games, music and fun.

Behind all of those volunteers, however, there is a small staff of paid employees of Suffolk Festivals Inc. that organizes events, provides support services for entertainers, marshals the resources of all those volunteers and serves as the point of contact for everybody who eventually winds up helping to present the festival.

The leader of the small group of paid staff, Linda Stevens, will be retiring at the end of next month. Her influence on the organization and on the Suffolk Peanut Festival will be sorely missed.

Email newsletter signup

Stevens joined the festival as a volunteer 22 years ago. Though she had not been looking for a job, she soon found herself accepting a part-time, seasonal position helping to organize things as the festival date drew nearer. Later, the job of executive director opened up. Stevens stepped in, and she’s been the backbone of the organization ever since.

Those of us whose contact with the Peanut Festival is limited to four days and nights in October have little concept of the time and energy that must be expended to put it together. It’s a year-round effort that kicks into full speed by the end of the summer and into overdrive come October. And it’s an effort to which Stevens has sometimes sacrificed family, friends and — it must have seemed at times — even her own sanity.

In retirement, Stevens looks forward to spending time with family, relaxing through September and even joining the throngs headed through the gates into Suffolk Executive Airport to enjoy the Suffolk Peanut Festival as a visitor for the first time in more than two decades. We can only hope that she’ll be given her own permanent parking pass for her efforts.