Written by Danielle Taylor | Header photo by Catherine Coleman
In southern Clarion County, the small town of New Bethlehem comes alive each autumn for the Peanut Butter Festival, held this year September 14-16. Named for the town’s iconic Smucker’s peanut butter factory, this event features fun for the whole family and showcases much of what makes “Newbie” unique.
The J.M. Smucker Company opened the New Bethlehem factory during the 1940s, and since then, its regular peanut-roasting operations have scented the surrounding air and generated New Bethlehem’s proud claim as “the best-smelling town in Pennsylvania.” In 2017, Southern Peanut Growers and PeanutButterLovers.com named it one of the nation’s best cities for peanut butter lovers. When community organizers began working on a festival in the mid-nineties, it was only natural to name it in honor of the town’s unique characteristic.
The three-day event hosted by the Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce features a full schedule of events for festival goers of all ages. The fun begins on Friday night with the Peanut Butter Wine Walk, which features reds, whites, and fruit varieties from a wide range of local wineries. Friday evening also includes the crowning of the festival queen as well as the popular band Son of Leroy performing for the crowd.
Saturday morning’s festivities kick off with the Peanut Butter 5K Race, followed by the mountain bike race, which features a 5.5-mile option as well as a more challenging 13.2-mile course. Bakers and cooks can enter their best peanut butter-based culinary creations in the Peanut Butter Cook-Off, and you can join in or watch the fun of the Wing-Eating Contest, which will feature wings slathered in a peanut butter sauce. At 3 p.m., everyone congregates along Broad Street for the ever-popular Peanut Butter Festival Parade. During the evening, go for a bounce at the inflatable carnival and enjoy performances by Everett Lee and the Underground Stampede.
On Sunday morning, go for a motorcycle ride to benefit a local cancer survivor, and check out the tractor show and highly popular car cruise-in at noon. The New Bethlehem Fire Company serves a chicken dinner throughout the day, and the kids will love the afternoon’s inflatable carnival and artistry of the balloon sculptors from Kahuna Balloona. Sunday afternoon also features a number of performances by local musicians, plus the talented Barber Shoppers and ventriloquist Jimmy Swogger and Friends. The event concludes with the 50/50 rubber ducky race at the dam, which will feature a “car-sized inflated duck” this year, according the festival organizer Gordon Barrows.
Throughout the weekend, shop around at a variety of food and craft vendors, many of which offer peanut butter-related items for sale, such as peanut butter-filled pierogis, soaps, and home decor. Festival admission is free, although some events involve a cost. Most events occur at or near Gumtown Park in downtown New Bethlehem along Redbank Creek.
The Motel 6, Park Inn by Radisson, and Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Clarion are all offering discounted rates for guests coming to town for the Peanut Butter Festival, so mention it when you make your reservation! The region also features a wide range of other lodging options, including cabins, B&Bs, and more.
Learn more and find other interesting places to visit in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region by going to VisitPAGO.com or calling (814) 849-5197.