Ask Andrew Mathis to name his favorite food and he’ll tell you in an instant.
“It’s peaches, no question,” he said.
Mathis, a 70-year-old from Fort Valley, worked at a peach farm earlier in life and hasn’t missed a single Georgia Peach Festival since the event was launched in 1986.
Saturday, he made it out once again to the festival’s annual kickoff celebration at the Peach Shops of Byron.
“I wouldn’t miss it for anything,” he said.
The celebration began at 5 p.m. and featured live music, arts and crafts vendors, a fireworks show and a foam party for the kids.
Festival director Rich Bennett said it was the biggest crowd he’s ever seen for the celebration.
Brandi Trivette, a vendor at the event who sells peach-scented candles she makes at her home in Warner Robins, said the crowd was good for business.
“The peach candle has been a real hit tonight. People here in Peach County sure do love their peaches,” Trivette said.
But for some people, such as Janet Wynne and her husband, David, this year’s Peach Festival isn’t just about the titular fruit.
“Peaches are great, but we’re more into motorcycles, which is why we’re here,” she said.
Wynne said she had never been to the Peach Festival before until she rode in the festival’s first Poker Run Saturday morning.
On the other hand, Wynne’s 3-year-old daughter, Erika, said she loved the foam party.
“It looks like snow,” she said.
J.B. Roberson, an author from Warner Robins, was at the celebration signing copies of her latest children’s book, “Cuddlee Bugs: Revenge o’ the Peach Potion.”
“It’s a book that’s actually a lot about the Peach Festival,” she said.
The bands 2 Finger Jester and The Skeeterz performed free shows during the celebration.
“I was a little worried Two Finger Jester might be too loud for the festival, but everybody seemed to love them,” Bennett said.Mathis, however, said he was holding out for The Skeeterz, a more traditional country band.
“I may be old, but I love to dance when they play my sort of music,” he said.
The festival concluded with a fireworks display shot off from behind the shopping center.
“The fireworks are always the best part,” Bennett said.
As the kickoff to the festival drew to a close, Bennett said he held high hopes for the rest of it.
“This is looking like it might be one of the best Peach festivals yet. We’ve already gotten more involvement than last year,” he said.
To contact writer Carl Lewis, call 744-4347.
Georgia Peach Festival
5K Road Race7 a.m.First Baptist Church, Fort Valley
Peach Festival Parade10 a.m.Downtown Fort Valley
Historical Society Luncheon11: 30 a.m.McArthur Saxson House, downtown Fort Valley
Free Concert8 p.m.Peach County Courthouse
Peach Festival Fireworks FinaleDarkDowntown Fort Valley