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Friday, October 15, 2010

State Fair Food Classics: Houston's Peanuts

Posted by on Fri, Oct 15, 2010 at 3:47 PM

If you’ve ever stepped foot in the Education Building at the State Fair, you’ve more than likely been offered a peanut by members of the Exchange Club of North Raleigh. “Everybody that comes by our booth gets a peanut,” says Charlie Campbell, one of the club’s original members who first came up with the idea to sell peanuts at the fair as a fundraiser in 1969. “We’ve been at the same location in the Education Building ever since,” Campbell says, adding that the club also began to advertise its products by shouting out its free sample in its very first year.

“It’s amazing to see people walk away with a peanut, try it, walk back and say, ‘God that’s great. I’ve got to have a bag,’” Campbell says. And apparently, between new and returning customers, lots of people do just that. Each fair season the club sells 12 to 14 tons of peanuts, an amount which Campbell likens to the load of a tractor-trailer truck.

Exchange Club of North Raleigh members, Kim Hall, Simone Brannon, and Charlie Campbell, with Houstons Peanuts.
  • Exchange Club of North Raleigh members, Kim Hall, Simone Brannon, and Charlie Campbell, with Houston's Peanuts.

The idea behind the Exchange Club’s booth began with Campbell’s like of Houston’s salted in the shell peanuts, which were first available to fair-goers in 1968 and sold by the Dublin, North Carolina company itself. When Campbell heard that Houston’s didn’t plan to return to the fair the following year, he approached them to see if his club could sell the product, thinking that it would provide Houston’s with exposure, and the Exchange Club a chance to make money for charity. Campbell was more right than he ever expected. Many people clamor to the Education Building just for Houston’s peanuts, and local organizations and causes continue to benefit from the Exchange Club’s sales.

“I’ve put some figures together,” says Campbell. “We’ve given 2 million dollars to charity just through the sale of peanuts.” The Exchange Club contributes to numerous local causes, with primary recipients including child abuse prevention programs like SAFEchild of Raleigh and the Occoneechee Council of the Boy Scouts. Campbell says the Exchange Club also works to place “freedom posters”—copies of the Declaration of Independence, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and the Bill of Rights among other documents—in Wake County Schools.

Houston’s peanuts are available for purchase in two sizes: 12-ounce bags for $3 (2 for $5), and 24-ounce bags for $4 (2 for $7). Of course, there’s always one free peanut, too.

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