Georgia Peach Festival concludes with cobbler gobbling

Telegraph correspondentJune 14, 2014 

FORT VALLEY -- Again this year, a giant peach cobbler -- they say the world’s largest -- was the highlight of the last day of the Georgia Peach Festival.

The 10-day festival ended Saturday with a traditional Kiwanis Club pancake breakfast and continued downtown with a parade, arts and crafts, entertainment and concerts, food and a variety of rides and events for young and old.

And the giant peach cobbler, served hot at 2 p.m.

“I’ve been making the cobbler for eight years now after apprenticing how to make it nine years ago,” said Rich Bennett, whose day job is information technology manager for the Peach County Commission.

He said he and volunteers start cooking the 150 pounds of flour, 150 of sugar, 75 of butter, 32 gallons of milk and 75 gallons of peaches that go in the cobbler at 6 a.m.

It cooks at 300 degrees in a special brick oven built on West Church Street in downtown Fort Valley, site of the day’s activities.

This year, Bennett said, the amount of butter was reduced from the usual 90 pounds to 75.

Brandy Severin, originally from New Jersey, and Sigan Wilson, born and raised in Germany, both gave the treat thumbs up after waiting near the front of the growing cobbler line for about 45 minutes.

The two are both stationed at Robins Air Force Base.

“Honestly, I wasn’t expecting it to be this good,” Severin said. “I guess I was thinking quantity, not quality, but it’s really good. And free. That makes it even better.”

Tom Morrill, president of the Peach Regional Chamber of Commerce, one of the cobbler sponsors, said the festival offers people in Peach County the opportunity to enjoy themselves, show off a bit and demonstrate just what they can do.

In fact, the popular festival drew guests from South Dakota who came to look and learn how to conduct a peach festival of their own in Sioux Falls in late July.

Do they grow peaches in South Dakota?

“No, we import them from Lane Southern Orchard in Peach County,” said Lynn Albers of The Fruit Club, a business that brings fresh fruit to 30,000 members in seven Midwestern states. “It’s way too cold for peaches in South Dakota, but we love good fruit.”

Albers said her company takes orders online, imports fresh fruit, then delivers it for pickup in locations throughout the seven states.

“Based on what I’d always bought in grocery stores, I thought peaches were just crispy and crunchy,” Albers said. “Now I know how good peaches really are. They’re really popular among our members. We really love them.”

Albers said she not only got the idea for a peach festival from her new Fort Valley friends, she said she’s also signed Bennett up to come bake a giant peach cobbler.

“But we won’t make it quite as big as here,” she said. “We don’t want to compete for who has the biggest. We just want good cobbler.”

Contact writer Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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