NEW BETHLEHEM — When it comes to New Bethlehem’s annual Peanut Butter Festival, there’s always the curiosity factor.

“People always stop at the festival to ask why New Bethlehem celebrates peanut butter,” festival organizer Dianna Brothers said. “A lot of people from outside the area, and even some locally, aren’t aware that New Bethlehem is home to the J.M. Smucker peanut butter factory.”

The three-day festival, which begins Friday afternoon, Sept. 14, and continues through Sunday, Sept. 16, is held in New Bethlehem’s Gumtown Park, nestled between Water Street and Red Bank Creek near the dam and bridge.

Brothers said the Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce’s annual event, now in its 23rd year, has grown considerably in that time, and now attracts visitors from all over the region, and even from out of state.

“We’re a known festival now,” she said. “We pull people in from so many places.

“People may travel in from out of state, but we’ve still been able to keep it a festival about community, family and a lot of free entertainment,” she said.

It’s also about peanut butter, too.

The chamber’s tent is stocked each year with all the varieties of peanut butter manufactured locally at the Smucker’s plant. Brothers said they will have the wildly popular chocolate and peanut butter, and honey and peanut butter varieties this year that people can purchase by the jar or case.

“Come early for those, they may not last long,” Brothers said, noting that the chamber also sells festival merchandise at the tent, as well as special peanut butter and chocolate treats made by the festival’s title sponsor, Char-Val Candies.

The festival officially kicks off Friday at 4 p.m. as the numerous food vendors and crafters open. Brothers said more food vendors than ever before will be on hand this year, and the park will also be filled with crafters and other booths.

“We are full,” she said this week. “We are squeezing in a few more food vendors and will have a full range of foods, including wings this year.”

Friday evening’s activities include the Wine Walk from 5 to 8 p.m., and the crowning of the Peanut Butter Festival queen at 6 p.m. on the stage, followed by the band, Son of Leroy, from 7 to 9 p.m. The evening will conclude with a fireworks display by Ace Pyro.

Saturday’s lineup starts early with the 5K race at 8 a.m. Crafters and vendors open at 9 a.m., the same time that the Peanut Butter Festival Cook-Off judging begins at the Kaminsky Dental building. At 10 a.m. the mountain bike race will get underway along Penn Street before heading into area’s rolling hills.

New this year, a wing eating contest will be held on the stage at 11:30 a.m., featuring super hot wings from local eatery, Zack’s.

The festival’s large parade will step off at 3 p.m. down Broad Street (Route 28), and the inflatable carnival will be held in the park from 4 to 8 p.m.

The evening’s entertainment features country rock band Everett Lee & Underground Stampede with two sets, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and 7:30 to 9 p.m.

On Sunday, the festival starts off with a motorcycle cruise at 10 a.m. Crafters and vendors open at 11 a.m., and the New Bethlehem Fire Co. will host a chicken dinner at the park from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A number of local performers will take too the stage from noon to 1:30 p.m., and the inflatable carnival will be open from noon to 4 p.m.

The main event of the day is the annual Knight Cruisers Car Cruise along Water Street, which begins at noon. A tractor show will also be held on the lower end of Water Street from noon to 4 p.m.

The NBC Barbershop Chorus will perform on stage at 2 p.m., followed by Jimmy Swogger and Friends at 3 p.m.

The duck race on Red Bank Creek will be the final event of the afternoon at 3:30 p.m., with the festival closing at 5 p.m.

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