By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – The carnival rolled into town Sunday and Monday afternoon workers were busily preparing the rides, games and food booths for the onslaught of humanity that will invade the Grapeland City Park, beginning today as the 73rd Annual Peanut Festival kicks into high gear.

The unofficial start of the event, instituted last year, was held on Wednesday evening as a bonfire roared to life at the Grapeland Athletic Complex, just before 8:30 pm.

The bonfire – taking a page from the A&M playbook – symbolized the burning desire to beat the ever lovin’ daylights out of whoever the Sandies play at Homecoming. This year it’s the Colmesneil Bulldogs and given the 1-5 record Colmesneil sports coming into Friday night’s game, it seems likely the Sandies will walk off the field victorious.

The official start of the 2018 Peanut Festival begins with Carnival Family Night at the Grapeland City Park on Thursday, Oct. 11. Carnival rides, games and fried delicacies of all sorts will take center stage beginning at 6 p.m. and lasting until 10 (ish) p.m. Armbands, allowing carnival goers to “ride all night,” will be available for purchase at the park at a cost of $20 per armband.

The festivities kick it up a notch on Friday, Oct. 12. Starting things off will be the Homecoming Pep Rally in the Grapeland High School Gymnasium. Cheerleaders, the GHS Band, students, faculty and alumni will all be in the gym to help get the Mighty Sandies fired up for their football game later in the evening.

Plan to show up early at Sandie Stadium later that evening as the Homecoming King and Queen – along with their Royal Court – are announced. This year, the King and Queen will be crowned during ceremonies prior to the game.

The candidates for Homecoming Queen are: Ragan Bowie; Madilyn McCombs; Lila Munoz; Shania Taylor; Diamond Dunn; and Haylee Reed. The candidates for Homecoming King are: Justin Bobbitt; Cadarian Wiley; Gavin French; Javion Joseph; Rick Frauenberger; and Tyrin Wiley.

Following the naming of the 2018 Homecoming King and Queen, the Grapeland Sandies will take the field for a tilt with the Colmesneil Bulldogs.

Once the game ends, the action will crank back up at the Grapeland City Park with a concert and dance. The music will be provided by Todd Freeman and Bulletproof. Remember, a dance area has been installed in front of the gazebo at the park so those who want to cut a rug won’t continuously trip over those pesky pinecones! The music and boot scootin’ are scheduled to last from 9 p.m. until midnight.

Saturday, Oct. 13 marks a day chock full of Peanut Festival events. Head on back to the downtown area – early in the morning – and find the perfect spot to watch a parade. For more information, please contact the Parade Chairman Klint Dailey or Peanut Festival Chairman Brandon Bridges. For those who have pre-registered, line-up begins promptly at 8:30 a.m.

At 10 a.m., police sirens and fire truck claxons will sound, marking the start of the parade. Queen contestants’ floats, tractors, cars, police and fire vehicles, motorcycles, horses and a slew of other entrants will entertain those in attendance as the parade winds its way down Main Street and through the Grapeland area.

When the parade ends, you will want to make your way back to the Grapeland City Park for a day full of fun, food, games and rides. Arts and crafts booths, vendors selling their wares, turkey legs, ribbon fries and funnel cakes will dominate the scene as visitors and residents alike stroll through the park grounds enjoying a full spectrum of all things peanut.

Take a break around 4 or 4:30 p.m., go home, shower, check the college football scores but be ready to go again by 7 p.m. That’s when one lovely young lady will begin her final quest to become Miss Peanut Queen 2018.

The Queen’s Coronation begins at 7 p.m., however, try and get to the Lorena Schultz Auditorium early as seating is limited.

This year’s candidates are: Abigaile Barrett; Reagan Bishop; Ragan Bowie; Alexia Lamb; Hannah Owens; Carly Parker; Taylor Pennington; and Haylee Reed.

Tickets are now on sale at Platt Heating and Air for $15. If any tickets are still available by Saturday, Oct. 13, the Chamber will have them at their booth at the City Park during the Saturday events.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.