The medium and the mess-age

Published 9:16 pm Friday, September 19, 2014

Christyna Mencarini works on her peanut butter sculpture during the 2012 Peanut Butter Sculpture Contest.

Christyna Mencarini works on her peanut butter sculpture during the 2012 Peanut Butter Sculpture Contest.

For most folks at the Suffolk Peanut Fest Oct. 9-12, their memories will be about the flash of the lights along the midway, the crash of metal at the demolition derby, a dash of pepper on something fried and delicious.

But for a select few who are chosen to smash their hands into a blob of specially made peanut butter, the memories will be of a more tactile nature.

The peanut butter sculpture contest is one of the little things that keep Peanut Fest from becoming a generic country fair. Its unique proposition: Give the festival queen and her court — along with other festival officials and invited luminaries — a block of specially created peanut butter, start the clock and then let them release their inner artists.

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The results are — let’s say — inconsistent, but the medium is not the most forgiving one, either.

“You can be as creative as you want to be, but it’s still hard to carve peanut butter,” warns Theresa Earles, Suffolk’s tourism director and the volunteer public relations officer for the nonprofit Peanut Fest.

Winning isn’t the point of the contest, anyway. It’s all about fun, and it reflects the fun family atmosphere of the festival as a whole. And this year, Earles says, there will be more fun on tap than ever before.

“There’s quite a bit of entertainment this year,” she said.

National recording artists Colt Ford, Parmalee and Darryl Worley will take the main stage for separate shifts on Saturday and Sunday. On Friday, regional favorites Joint Therapy and The Holiday Band will play there. And in something new for Peanut Fest this year, there will be an after-party featuring the Kevin Mac Band at the main stage Thursday evening for those leaving the Ruritan Shrimp Feast or taking advantage of the chance to visit the event early.

“We’re giving them one more reason to stay,” she said.

Entertainment will not be limited to the Budweiser Main Stage, though, as organizers have set up a full range of popular area performers for the Peanut Lounge. And the Family Harvest Stage will feature a stream of school bands and choral groups, local dance troupes and other local flavor, including a Saturday evening karaoke contest.

“Peanut Fest is very close to my heart,” Earles said. “It’s a wonderful family event, and it has become a family tradition for a lot of Suffolkians. It’s a little piece of Suffolk.”

This will be the event’s 37th year, and even with updates it will feel familiar to those who have come to love it.

As in years past, the Friday night demolition derby will be a highlight for visitors, kids will flock to the rides on the midway and the runways of the host Suffolk Executive Airport will be lined with food vendors selling the kinds of treats only an annual fair attracts. There will be agricultural exhibits, camel rides, games and fun for the family.

This year’s theme is “We’re nutty about America,” and attendees are being asked to rock their best red, white and blue threads when visiting, Earles said.

For more information about Peanut Fest, visit