A little late for fresh peaches
On the streets of downtown Live Oak, the scenes on Saturday were much like those of the 52 Septembers past.
In the morning, parade floats inched down Broadway past hundreds of townsfolk, from babes in arms to great-grandmothers taking it in from their camp chairs.
A little later began the main event - the Live Oak Peach Festival, an afternoon-to-night mix of food stands, musical performances, barbecue and evening fireworks.
Some 7,500 people attended this year's event, said Annette Bertolini, an event organizer.
Yet one thing was curiously scarce in this overgrown block party: the peaches.
Save for a peach stand, a booth serving peach cobbler, and another dishing out homemade peach-cheesecake ice cream, it could have been any weekend festival in any small town, albeit one in a town surrounded by orchards.
At the far end of the L-shaped row of vendors behind the Little League field were Jaime Urbina Sr. and his son, Jaime Jr., farmers from Hallwood who wasted no time hawking their fragrant fruit to the first people strolling the grounds.
A stout man with graying sideburns perused the crates of peaches arranged on three sides, while Jaime Sr., an amiable, relaxed sort with a straw hat shading his face, helpfully described each variety, yellow or white, sweet or tart: “These are Sweet Septembers, those are Arctic Flame. And over there is September Snow ...”
Jaime Sr. recalled he had done well selling his fruit at the summer's first peach festival, held in June in downtown Marysville, and had decided to try the Live Oak event this year. But even with his apparent monopoly on peaches Saturday, the near-absence of the fair's featured fruit bemused him.
“A peach festival should have peaches,” he said. “I think someone should be selling peach pies - something - to promote them.”
On second thought, he quickly added, perhaps it was asking too much to have an abundance of peaches on display - particularly so late in the summer.
Even event organizer Bertolini acknowledged the paradox of a Live Oak Peach Festival with a paucity of the showcase fruit.
“We're so late in season for fresh peaches,” she admitted. “The first thing people ask at a peach festival is, ‘Where are the peaches?'”
According to Bertolini, the name is more the legacy of the festival's old sponsors than of the festival itself. Peach growers' associations once underwrote the event, but a host of local businesses have long since supplanted them.
Even with this conundrum, the Live Oak Chamber of Commerce, a co-sponsor of the festival with the Citizens and Builders Coalition, found a way to turn the situation into promotion.
As the morning parade began, the public-address announcer's voice boomed down Broadway, inviting spectators to enter a unique drawing: Suggest a new name for the festival, with the winner gaining $200.
Appeal-Democrat reporter Howard Yune can be reached at 749-4708. You may e-mail him at email@example.com.