Chilton County Peach Festival Began In 1947 EDITOR’S NOTE: Each year, in June, the people of Chilton County set aside this week to recognize the peach and the peach farmer. COVID-19 was responsible for the cancellation of the Peach Festival Beauty Pageant and Auction this year. The Peach Parade and a special recognition of farmers will be held. What follows is a bit of history of the Peach Festival. The year was 1947 and a group of Chilton County citizens and businessmen held a meeting at a local restaurant in downtown Clanton called the Dixie Cafe. The purpose of the meeting, which was attended by some forty people, including some from Auburn and Birmingham, was to select a steering committee to gather information on how to put together a festival to promote Chilton County peaches. The steering committee was selected at the meeting and it was decided they would contact other citizens over the state that had held festivals to obtain ideas. Business interests in Clanton and Thorsby, as well as the peach growers all over the county, were behind the movement. The First Annual Chilton County Chilton County Peach Festival was held in Thorsby on Wednesday, July 16, 1947. Most businesses in the county closed for the day with the exception of pharmacies, service stations and cafes. Activities for the day included a parade and the introduction of the newly-selected Peach Prizes Queen, who reigned over the day’s festivities. were awarded for the best peaches. There were band concerts by the parade bands, baseball games and tours of peach orchards by M.R. Glasscock, County Agent. The Peach Festival ended with a dance held that night. It was a gala event to publicize the fact that “Chilton County Peaches Are Tops.” The first Peach Festival was sponsored by the Clanton Lions Club, Clanton Kiwanis Club, Thorsby Business Men’s Club, Thorsby Civic Club, and the Chamber of Commerce. Festival Chairman was J. Archie Ogburn, a Thorsby banker, and W. L. Parrish, Probate Judge, served as Co-Chairman. It was estimated there were approximately 3,500 farm families in Chilton County in 1947. The Peach Festival was held to honor and encourage them. The contestants in the Peach Queen contest, held the night before the Peach Parade and Festival, had to be the daughter of a peach farmer to be eligible for the title of Peach Queen. She had to be single and be between 15 and 25 years of age. festival, The week prior to the the contestants were photographed for a special Peach Festival Edition that was printed by Alabama Magazine. A great deal of time was put into photographing interesting scenes in Chilton County to get the word out about the peach industry. Contestants modeled a bathing suit, an evening gown and talked with the judges before attending a dinner in their honor. The judges were a group of businessmen from Birmingham and Montgomery. Miss Essie Lou “Chick” Jones, the 15-year-old daughter of Arthur B. and Gladys Herrod Jones of the Alpine Community, outside of Stanton, was chosen to reign over the Peach Festival, in all it’s glory, throughout the day. The Queen was crowned by Lt. Governor J.C. Inzer of Montgomery. Other contestants were: Marjorie Bentley, daughter of E.N. Bentley, Thorsby; Inez Cox, daughter of E.C. Cox, Thorsby; Dot Dennis, daughter of J.N. Dennis, Clanton; Mary Ann Deramus, daughter of D.I. Deramus, Verbena; Marietta Hamilton, daughter of J. W. Hamilton, Clanton; Norman Jean Hunnicutt, daughter of Arthur Hunnicutt, Thorsby; and Edna Lane Johnson, daughter of W.G. Johnson, Clanton. The first Peach Queen shared her memories about the Peach Festival and Pageant in an interview in 2008. “They called the third place winner, the second place winner, and then me as the first place winner. I was totally surprised as I was only fifteen. It was my first and only pageant. I was truly honored for my daddy, who was one of the first peach growers in the county. I remember everyone was so very kind to me and all of the people connected with the Peach Festival were just wonderful.” The Peach Parade, reported to be over a mile long in length, assembled on the grounds of the old Chilton County High School in Clanton on Wednesday, July 16. Leaving Clanton at 10:00 a.m., the Parade traveled up Highway 31 to Thorsby. It poured rain as the Parade began. In the Peach Queen’s interview in 2008, she said, “I guess we didn’t think about carrying an umbrella or anything. I had to go to the beauty parlor that afternoon to get ready for the Peach Dance that night.” The parade itself was a grand affair. All floats used the theme “Chilton County Peaches Are Tops.” The parade was led by the Air Force Band from Maxwell Field and the Parade Marshall was T.G. Brabston. A second band from the Boy’s Industrial School in Birmingham was in the parade. The Montgomery Chamber of Commerce charted a bus, decorated it, and drove it in the parade. The Peach Queen was accompanied on her float by Cecil “Chick” Carlton of Thorsby, who was named “Peach King For A Day.” He was the Assistant County Agent at the time. The tradition of having a Peach King was carried through the first formative years of the Peach Festival, but was stopped prior to 1959. Others on the float included Marjorie Bentley, First Alternate, along with other contestants for Peach Queen. Upon arrival in Thorsby, the Peach Queen was presented at 11:00 a.m. as thousands of anxious spectators gathered on the Thorsby Institute Campus. Honored guests were also presented and basket lunches were spread at the noon hour. Lunch for the honored guests, Queen and King, was served in the dining hall Growing Peaches Since 1948 PRODUCE OF USA HIGH RISE FARM CHILTON COUNTY, ALABAMA 2649 Lay Dam Road • Clanton, AL 35045 of Thorsby Institute. The first bushel of Chilton County peaches auctioned off at the Peach Festival was grown by W. H. Lenoir of Maplesville. The bushel was purchased by Representative Lee Hornsby of Eclectic for $250.00 and given back to the Festival Committee to be sent to President Truman in Washington. The prize Hale Haven peaches were transported by Eastern Airlines under the personal supervision of Eddie Rizkenbacker. Second Place was grown by the Queen’s father. A. B. Jones and purchased by Montgomery’s James D. Flowers for $40.00. Third Place was grown by H. O. Headley of Clanton and purchased by Lloyd Foster, manager of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce for $70.00. U.S. Senator Lister Hill sent a letter from Washington to the peach committee telling them that President Truman said, “The peaches were unquestionably the finest I’ve ever seen and the President was delighted over them. He asked that we express to the grower, buyer and the people of Chilton County his deep appreciation for the beautiful and thoughtful way you remembered him. The President knows what we have always known, that the finest peaches are grown in Chilton County.” The Peach Queen was given her nickname of “Chick” by her father at a very young age. She was the youngest of eight children and her siblings included Jack, Woodrow, Arra, Lennett, Bama, Cleo and Peter. In her 2008 interview, she said, "My father was an entrepreneur farmer who raised cotton, sweet potatoes, wheat, almost anything. He worked closely The First Annual Chilton County Peach Festival was held on Wednesday, July 16, 1947. The prize-winning peaches and their growers were, left to right: W. H. Lenoir, First Place; State Senator W. A. Gulledge of Verbena; A. B. Jones, Second Place; and H.O. Headley, Third Place. The winning basket brought $250.00 at the Peach Auction and were air-expressed to President Truman following the judging. with the Chilton County Extension Office. Whatever they suggested, he would try such as rotating crops, planting vetch and turning it under." "My mother worked equally hard and was involved with the Home Demonstration Club through the Extension Office. She worked along-side my father and remodeled her own kitchen one time. She learned progressive ways of cooking. Our family peach farm was so beautiful and it was located down the road from Alpine Church.” The Jones family farm no longer exists today and is mostly forest land. The 1947 Peach Queen graduated from Maplesville High School and moved to Tuscaloosa where she became a student at the University of Alabama. She met her future husband there, William Donald, and they had three children. She became a homemaker, later returning to the University to obtain her degree. Essie Lou “Chick” Jones Donald passed away in June of 2015. Chick Jones, 1947 Chilton County Peach Queen. Boiled Peanuts & More! 8 Chilton County News Thursday, June 25, 2020 Under Alabama’s Biggest Peach “Your Alert Community Newspaper” OUR 98th YEAR!

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