Moab History: Peach Days

Around the turn of the twentieth century, Moab was a small, isolated agricultural community – and orchards were both a big business and a source of local pride in the valley. Moab peaches were a delicious and profitable crop and were exported to Colorado markets and beyond.

Early settlers attempted to bolster the fruit-growing enterprise in the Moab Valley with newspaper ads. Newspaper publisher and entrepreneur Justus N. Corbin published an ad in multiple summer 1896 issues of the Grand Valley Times stating that there were “fruit lands in abundance to be had for the taking” in Moab. Corbin confidently reported that Moab had “a never-failing [source] of water… the finest climate in the world, no risk of drought, no cyclones.” 

In addition to being an economic driver, peaches were a source of pride. Grand Junction, Colorado held an Annual Peach Day Celebration – an event that was covered by the local Moab newspaper for years with some measure of competitiveness. 

“Gordon Kimball returned the first of the week from Grand Junction,” reported the Grand Valley Times on September 17, 1897. “He reports that the fruit displayed there on Peach day was inferior for both size and flavor with what is to be seen in every orchard of this valley.”

A few years later, the tenor of the newspaper coverage was much unchanged. The 1903 coverage of the Peach Day event alleged that Moab peaches were in fact the star of Grand Junction’s celebrations.

“Of course, they do not raise very many peaches up in [Grand Junction,] but a Peach Day is an advertisement for the place that pays; and peaches can be bought where they do raise them – that is down here in Moab,” reported the Grand Valley Times on September 11, 1903. “Agents for the Grand Junction people have been here for some time buying peaches so that the Peach Day visitors would be supplied.” 

While fruit growing in Moab has subsided in the dozen decades since the publication of these Grand Valley Times articles, Moabites still enjoy locally grown fruit from trees in the valley seasonally to this day. Meanwhile, in the Grand Valley of Colorado, the town of Palisade will hold its 56th annual Peach Festival in August of 2024, a testament to the longtime fruit-growing tradition of that region – a proud Colorado tradition despite the contrarian newspaper banter from Moabites long ago.

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This article was originally published in the Moab Sun News in the Museum’s weekly Moab History column.