[Photographs: West Virginia Black Walnut Festival]

Food festivals are part of America's agricultural roots— communities come together to celebrate their local cash crop, often at the end of the harvest season. If you're looking for some good old-fashioned nutty fun this fall, check out these nut-celebrating festivals.

Oakley Almond Festival

Dates: Sept. 10 to 12, 2010

Location: Oakley, California

After John O'Hara planted acres of almond trees in Oakley, California, the nut became a source of local pride, and every year about 20,000 residents and visitors gather in O'Hara Park to celebrate the city's favorite nut. The festival lasts three days and includes a cooking contest with prizes, a classic car show, diaper derby, and boat activities to highlight another Oakley essential: its waterways. "Ben Toasted," the Oakley Almond mascot, can also be found walking around the fairgrounds to add to the nuttiness of the event.

West Virginia Black Walnut Festival


Date: October 14 to 17, 2010
Location: Spencer, West Virginia

If you're wondering who grows the best walnuts, then head to this festival. Awards will be presented for the finest mature black walnut and hickory nut specimens from around West Virginia. There's also a bake-off (open to West Virginia residents only), and the theme this year is cakes. Participants are required to use at least 1/2 cup of West Virginia black walnuts in their from scratch recipes. This four-day festival also includes a 5K Run/Walk, a car show, quilt contest, and more.

Newberry Springs Pistachio Festival

Date: November 6, 2010

Location: Newberry Springs, California

Of all the California-grown pistachios, 98% come from Newberry Springs. The self-appointed "Pistachio Capital of the High Desert," Newberry Springs reportedly has a strong mineral content in its water supply, which gives local pistachio nuts a distinctly delicious flavor. At the festival, visitors can sample pistachio nuts in a variety of flavors including lemon herb and Cajun. Admission is free!

Sahuarita Pecan Festival

Dates: November 20 to 21, 2010

Location: Sahuarita, Arizona

This festival opens with three community runs: the 1.5 mile Nut Run, the
8-mile Pecan Classic, and a 5K option new to the festival in 2010. Awards are distributed to winners by gender and age group. The Sahuarita Pecan Festival donates a portion of its proceeds to a non-profit that community members vote on in advance.

Any others out there we missed?

About the author: Lee Zalben was a PB&J-loving kid that grew up to be the founder and president of Peanut Butter & Co., which began as a Greenwich Village sandwich shop serving nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and expanded to include the now-famous line of all natural flavored peanut butter. Lee is a graduate of Vassar College and enjoys traveling the world in search of interesting foods made with peanuts, tree nuts, and seeds. When he's not working, eating, flying or writing, he enjoys scuba diving and training elephants.


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