Shoppers go nuts over arts and crafts

Helena Rodriguez

People are going nuts over the 30th annual Peanut Valley Festival, but it’s because of the arts and crafts, not the peanuts.
Approximately 140 vendors packed into almost every available space Saturday at the three-level Campus Union Building at Eastern New Mexico University, and will be peddling their wares again today from noon to 5 p.m. The Loco Motion train from Alamogordo will also be on hand for another afternoon to give children rides.
Rhonda Payne of Portales said she been attending the Peanut Festival for years. Summed this year’s event up, she said “there’s more arts and crafts booths and less food.”
The merchandise booths appear to have driven the food vendors outdoors. Up until a few years ago, food booths were located inside as well.
Payne said she didn’t mind the extra emphasis on merchandise booths, and it didn’t seem that thousands of other festival-goers this weekend did, either. Payne found a special gift, a personalized children’s book, for a loved one.
At the Personalized Children’s Books booth, shoppers can purchase children’s storybooks and have the names of their children inserted into the story line.
“It makes it more meaningful for the kids,” said Payne as she purchased a Spiderman book. “I haven’t seen these kinds of personalized children’s books offered anywhere else.”
The personalized book was just one of the many unusual gifts to be found at the Peanut Festival.
One vendor, WHH Ranch, came from Shepherd, Texas, near Houston to peddle an original version of bread and butter pickles that it calls Cowboy Candy. Instead of using cucumbers, it uses pickled jalapenos.
For Travis Hardin, the Peanut Valley Festival proved to be a good place to get a head start on Christmas shopping.
“It’s all about the crafts,” Hardin said. “But even though the food booths are all outside now, I feel like there’s a nice variety of food. There seems to be more people every year here, and more students as well.”
While most of the focus has turned to the novelty items, knickknacks, jewelry and handmade items sold, peanuts still have a strong presence at the festival named in their honor.
“One lady drove all the way over here from Albuquerque just for peanuts,” said Marissa Earp of the Portales Woman’s Club, which was selling Sunland peanuts.
The Portales Woman’s Club sold many different types and arrangements of peanuts — from small bags up to 50 pound sacks, from raw and roasted to salted and unsalted.
“We sell hundreds of pounds of peanuts here every year,” Earp said. “It’s our biggest fundraiser of the year.”