NEW BETHLEHEM — The New Bethlehem area will go nutty next weekend as the popular Peanut Butter Festival returns for its annual three-day run.
Held in New Bethlehem’s Gumtown Park along Water Street, the festival, now in its 24th year, pays homage to the community’s Smucker’s peanut butter factory.
“We’ll have just about all the varieties of peanut butter manufactured here in New Bethlehem at the Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce tent,” chamber member and longtime festival volunteer Amanda Coon said. She noted that the products include the Smucker’s all-natural varieties, as well as the Goober brands and some items that are not sold in this area or even in the United States.
“We will have the peanut butter and chocolate, which people love,” Coon said, adding that as a result of production schedules, the festival won’t have the popular peanut butter and honey variety this year.
The festival kicks off Friday, Sept. 20, at 4 p.m., although Coon noted that some food vendors usually open earlier in the day.
“We have some new entertainment for Friday night,” Coon said of the The Wrangler Band, which will perform on the festival stage starting at 7 p.m.
The music begins following the crowning of this year’s Peanut Butter Festival Queen at 6 p.m. Six local girls are competing in the scholarship contest, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. A special reception will be held for all the past contestants who are returning to help mark two decades of the contest.
Also on Friday, Kahuna Balloona will be on hand to make balloon creations for children from 4 to 8 p.m. They will also return Saturday during the same times.
Saturday’s schedule begins early with the 5K race along the Redbank Valley Trail at 8 a.m. Registration begins at 7 a.m. at the park along Water Street.
Crafters and food vendors will begin opening at 9 a.m., the same time that entries will begin to be judged for the annual Peanut Butter Bake-Off. Cash prizes are offered in several categories, and the full rules can be found on the festival’s website at www.PBFestival.com.
At 10:30 a.m., the Mountain Bike Race starts off along Penn Street before venturing off-road on the course of hills and valleys around the community. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. at the New Bethlehem Town Center (former Keck building), with a required pre-race meeting at 10 a.m.
Back at the park, a Surprise Eating Contest will be held on the stage at noon, with the food being prepared by Zack’s.
The afternoon’s big event is the parade along Broad Street at 3 p.m., with more than 30 units signed up to take part.
An inflatable carnival for kids will run from 4 to 8 p.m. in the park.
“It will be ready to go for the kids right after the parade,” Coon said.
In the evening, the Route 8 Band will perform two shows, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and 7:30 to 9 p.m., leading into the fireworks display above the park to cap off the night.
“It will be a great show,” Coon said of the fireworks. “Everyone raved about the Fourth of July fireworks.”
The festival wraps up on Sunday with a busy schedule, starting off with the addition of a new community church service, hosted by the Cornerstone Church of God, at 9:30 a.m. on the stage.
Also in the morning, the annual Motorcycle Bike Cruise will start off at 10 a.m., with registration beginning at 8 a.m. in the S&T Bank parking lot along East Broad Street.
Crafters and food vendors will open shop at 11 a.m. on Sunday, the same time that the chicken dinner hosted by the New Bethlehem Fire Co. will begin serving.
The Knight Cruisers will host their car cruise-in, which usually draws several hundred classic automobiles, from noon to 5 p.m., and the tractor show will once again take place along Water Street near the dam from noon to 4 p.m.
The inflatable carnival will again be held in the park on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.
On the festival stage, Sunday’s lineup starts off with performances by students at Dancer’s Studio at noon, followed by the NBC Barbershop Chorus at 2 p.m., and Jimmy Swogger and Friends at 3 p.m.
During the three days of the festival, small rubber ducks will be sold in the chamber tent for Sunday’s duck contest on Red Bank Creek, which begins at 3:30 p.m. The buyers of the first three ducks to flow down the stream and bump into the large duck will win cash prizes.
The festival concludes at 5 p.m. Sunday.
Coon said the festival grounds this year will be full of 40-plus craft and vendor booths, along with a dozen or more food concession booths.
And throughout the weekend, the chamber’s tent will offer new festival merchandise, including T-shirts, coffee mugs, tote bags, coasters, pins and more, as well as special Char-Val Candies chocolate and peanut butter goodies, and of course, jars and cases of the locally made Smucker’s peanut butter.
“Thank you to all of our sponsors — we’ve been very fortunate to be supported so well by the community,” Coon said. “And thank you to all the volunteers that make this happen, along with the Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce board of directors.”
For more information on the festival and its events, along with registration forms, visit www.PBFestival.com.