Last updated: February 16. 2013 3:30AM - 1359 Views

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WILKES-BARRE ‚?? The Luzerne County Historical Society will host the opening of a new exhibit -- The Wonderful Story of Planters Peanuts ‚?? beginning Saturday and running through October. A preview reception will be held Friday evening.

The exhibit tells the story of Italian immigrants Amedeo Obici and Mario Peruzzi, who founded Planters Peanuts Co. in Wilkes-Barre in 1906. It includes ‚??the birth‚?Ě of Mr. Peanut in 1916 and the growth and development of the company and its products up to today.

To make things even more celebratory, the Peanut Pals ‚?? about 900 Planters Peanuts collectors ‚?? will hold their annual convention in Wilkes-Barre in July at Genetti Hotel & Convention Center.

On Tuesday, museum curator Mary Ruth Burke readied hundreds of items for the exhibit that are sure to bring to mind the aroma of fresh-roasted peanuts and the sight of Mr. Peanut on Public Square.

The exhibit, which will remain on display through Oct. 27, will feature a re-creation of the Planters Peanut Store that once stood at 15 E. Market St., photographs, documents and artifacts from several personal collections on loan from family members and collectors.

Pencils, ink pens, dishes, coloring books, watches, jewelry and many other items will be featured. Jars and cans and wrappers of Planters peanut products ‚?? the first vacuum-packed containers ‚?? also will be displayed, Burke said.

Mike Chmiola of Hanover Township, who led the effort to have a historical marker erected at the site of the Planters Peanuts building on South Main Street, said he can‚??t wait to see all the displays at Friday‚??s reception.

‚??We want to keep alive the significance of Planters Peanuts starting out in Wilkes-Barre,‚?Ě he said.

Burke hopes people visit the exhibit and tell their Planters Peanuts memories.

Janeann and John Lokken of Mountain Top, organizers of the Peanut Pals convention, are looking forward to seeing all the memorabilia.

The Mr. Peanut of old may get to meet the new Mr. Peanut ‚?? the one that was featured in TV commercials last year speaking for the first time ‚?? during the Peanut Pals convention in July, Janeann Lokken said.

‚??Wouldn‚??t it be great if they met right here in Wilkes-Barre where it all began?‚?Ě she said.

Lokken said the Planters Peanutmobile may pull into Wilkes-Barre during the July 8-12 convention. Lokken hopes a couple of hundred Peanut Pals visit the city.

In September 2007, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission marker was placed at the site of the former Planters Peanut headquarters at 632 S. Main St. Only the shell of the building that once housed some offices for Planters remains. Obici kept Planters corporate headquarters in Wilkes-Barre from 1925 to 1961.

Obici, who conceived the idea for Mr. Peanut, held a contest for people to submit their ideas on what the logo should look like. Antonio Gentile, 14, won the contest in 1916. In the 1940s, George LaBar, a Wilkes-Barre graphic artist, added the monocle, top hat, cane, white gloves and fancy black shoes to complete the image that is know known around the world as Mr. Peanut.

Friday‚??s reception will be held 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Luzerne County Historical Society Museum, 69 S. Franklin St., behind the Osterhout Free Library.

Cost is $20 per person, $15 for Historical Society members.

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