During a recent road trip, I found myself on the “main drag” of Oil City, Louisiana, a little downtown strip called Land Avenue. Each Spring, Land Avenue hosts the city’s annual festival, Gusher Days. Gusher Days is the kind of charming, small-town festival where you can catch a Gospel music showcase and professional lawnmower racing within a few yards of one another. I grew up in Springhill, Louisiana, where our annual festival involved the tossing of chainsaws. I don’t believe there’s any better opportunity to see the outrageous and wonderful personality of rural America than at a town square festival.
Guided by a friend who knew the area, I wandered into the Oak Alley Farms Outlet Store, located at 124 S. Land Avenue, where I was greeted by an old-fashioned candy counter. Among the offerings were homemade popcorn balls, fried peanuts, peanut patties, vintage candy-by-the-pound, canned goods and several varieties of the best-looking homemade fudge I’d ever seen. According to the owners, the fried peanuts (pictured above) are their top seller, including garlic and cajun-fried varieties. I opted for a slab of creamy peanut butter fudge (just like my great aunt used to make!) and a few jars of interesting-sounding preserves (garlic jelly and Vidalia onion jelly, to be specific). The store itself is a treat: How many more honest-to-goodness downtown candy counters could there possibly be left in rural America?
The 2012 Gusher Days will be held May 17-19 (view the list of events here). This year’s events include skydivers, pro lawnmower racing, live music, a pet parade, and more. If you go, I’d encourage you to visit Oak Alley Farms Outlet Store for a snack and some good conversation.