National Peanut Festival Food

Deep-fried desserts at the New Life Pentecostal Church. From left: fried Snickers, fried Twinkie, fried Oreos and chocolate chip burrito.

There’s nothing healthy about supper time at the fair. But it is a tasty menu.

On a visit to the National Peanut Festival, the Dothan Eagle dined on a variety of festival food ─ all for the sake of journalism, mind you.

The Eagle group started off with a rib-eye sandwich, a pig wing and a cup of frozen sweet tea from the Dothan Fireman Relief Fund. Then, it was straight to dessert at the New Life Pentecostal Church tent ─ fried Twinkie, fried Snickers, fried Oreo cookies, and a chocolate chip burrito to top it all off.

New Life began frying up desserts around 13 years ago when the festival located to the fairgrounds on US 231 South. It all started with the fried Twinkies. This year, the chocolate chip burrito is the new addition to the church’s deep-fried menu, and it’s a yummy addition.

“It is a tortilla shell with cookie dough put inside it and you just wrap it up like a burrito and deep fry it,” said Eunice Padgett, who was overseeing kitchen operations that night. “Then, we can put some whipped topping on it and some chocolate syrup and just make it really, really bad for you.”

As if all the deep-fried sweetness wasn’t enough, the Eagle tried a dish called the Cougar Crunch sold by the Northview High School Band Boosters. It’s a bowl layered with french fries, tortilla chips, melted cheese and chili. And, yes, it was good.

But something was missing. So, it was off to the Bibleway Church tent for side orders of collard greens, macaroni and cheese and a sweet potato pie.

Each year, local churches, band boosters, athletic groups and non-profit organizations set up tents along a stretch of asphalt at the National Peanut Festival, being held through Sunday, Nov. 10. Outside the main midway, it’s the busiest stretch of road at the festival.

There’s typically a line at The Corn Dog Man along with the nearby roasted sweet corn vendors. When you’ve had all the festival you can stand, grab a bag of cotton candy, a cup of boiled peanuts, a bag of Kettle Korn, or one of those yummy elephant ears sold at the Boy Scouts of America booth.

You can get a tomato sandwich for $2 from the Slocomb Athletic/Band Boosters’ tent or a turkey leg for $8 and a loaded baked potato for $7 at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Light the Night tent. The Disabled American Veterans group is serving up breakfast in the mornings for carnival workers, volunteers and anyone else at the fairgrounds as well as with other traditional festival foods like polish sausage with peppers and onions and chili cheese fries.

“You don’t go to the fair to eat healthy food,” said Art Miller, a volunteer at the DAV’s food area.

The DAV begins serving breakfast at 7:15 a.m., cooking up pancakes, eggs, hash browns and toast. But Miller said they’ve learned not everybody wants breakfast. For example, the group makes sure to have polish sausages ready for Senior Citizen Day at the fair.

“I had an 80-year-old lady chew me out ─ she wanted polish sausage at 9 o’clock in the morning,” Miller said with a laugh. She got her polish sausage.

Church members from Bibleway Church in Dothan will work each night of the festival serving up a soul food menu that includes catfish, collard greens, fried pork chops, crackling bread, macaroni and cheese, rice, lima beans, turnip greens, corn bread and individual sweet potato pies. A $9 plate includes a meat, two vegetables, a bread and dessert.

“Everybody loves the menu,” church elder Sanford Miller said.

Money raised from the food sales will go to build a new church. But Miller said having the tent at the National Peanut Festival is about more than money. Bibleway Church gets a lot of the same customers each year, he said, and the food tent gives the church an opportunity to reach out to others.

“It’s what we do,” Sanford Miller said. “The Bible says go out into the highways and the hedges to compel God’s people, and this is part of that.”

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