Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

July 3, 2013

Peach cook-off signals festival’s return

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Democrat — One man’s fruit is another man’s festival and in Garvin County there is no better example than the annual excitement that builds for each year’s Stratford Peach Festival.

Even those who move away from the regional peach capital like area native Michelle McGaffin never lose touch with the hometown event, and since moving back has now found a new way to get involved in an event not visited since childhood.

As it returns for the 37th time to the Stratford City Park on Saturday, July 20, she is helping revive the peach cook-off contest for the event and as a result the call is out for those of all ages looking to win the favor of judges through culinary skill.

“We always went to the festival, we always rode in the parade and went to the rodeo,” said McGaffin, who for a time lived in Bixby and now lives on the family farm near town.

“Most people turn out for the rodeo and the festival... I remembered it very well because it always fell on my birthday.”

McGaffin was initially asked to organize the competition due to the reputation she’s built from a side business and penchant for confections out of the oven.

She fondly looks back on the festival as the only time when they would spend most of the day away from the family farm and how it also meant preparing fresh peaches for treats like jam in the kitchen with mom and grandmother.

“I’m kind of known for my chocolate chip cookies and my baking,” said McGaffin. “They called me up and asked and I said sure!”

Entrants are broken up into three different groups with those 10 and under in the kid crew, 11-17 year-olds eligible for the teens and adults making up anything beyond that. It is $10 to participate and anyone interested will need to pick up a form or call and have one sent to them with the deadline set for Wednesday, July 17.

“You saw people you knew and the peaches were always out,” said McGaffin, further reflecting on memories of the festival and how her own children now make their own every year now.

“My kids love all the games, especially the sack races.”

Of course, the one rule above all is that the dish must contain peaches and a copy of the recipe must be included when it is turned in at least 15 minutes before the event gets going at 9:30 a.m. Each category comes with some pretty sweet prizes for the top three winners and includes $25, $15 and $10 for kids; $50, $30 and $20 for teens as well as $100, $60 and $40 for those in the adult age group.

“It just makes people smile… they just enjoy it so much,” said McGaffin. “We’re going to start to try doing it every year.”

For more information call the Stratford Chamber of Commerce office at 580-759-3300. Entries can be mailed to 100 N. Hyden Ave., Stratford, OK, 74872.