Peach Park offers much more than homegrown peaches

Published 12:36 pm Thursday, July 28, 2016

Peach Park offers fresh peaches, homemade ice cream and the perfect place for drivers to stretch their legs just off of exit 205 in Clanton. (Reporter photo)

Peach Park offers fresh peaches, homemade ice cream and the perfect place for drivers to stretch their legs just off of exit 205 in Clanton. (Reporter photo)

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Staff Reporter

There’s one thing that people in the south can agree on and that is that peaches and ice cream make for great summertime treats.

Peach Park in Clanton offers the best of both worlds, combining some of the finest homegrown peaches and homemade ice cream in Alabama.

Currently owned by Derek, Frances and Mark Gray as well as Shannon Hathcock, Peach Park started in 1984. Mark Gray was a sophomore in high school back then, but said his grandfather was growing peaches long before that.

“My granddad grew peaches and made my dad haul them to places like New Orleans,” Mark Gray said. “That’s when dad decided he didn’t want to be driving all over the place to deliver them, so he started this local fruit stand.”

Gray said that they now own over 10,000 peach trees managed and grown by Keith Wise. “Anything you can make with a peach, we make it,” he said.

There are several local produce stands around, but Gray said they were the first to start the trend of homemade ice cream and feels like this is what helps them stick out.

MSN just recently named Peach Park their signature ice cream place of Alabama in a special they did on each states best place to eat ice cream.

“We are the only true homemade ice cream around,” he said. “My mom was the first to make our ice cream when we started offering it and she still comes in every morning to make it fresh from scratch.”

Not only do they make fresh homemade ice cream daily, but also offer fresh fried pies and cobblers made daily starting with the dough. They also have fresh assorted fruits and vegetables and if you are in the mood for some fresh ready to eat fruit, they offer a fruit bar with all of their fruits cut and ready to eat.

However it’s not just the peaches and homemade treats that make Peach Park so special, but the fact that it is an actual park doesn’t hurt either.

Peach Park offers the chance for people to stretch their legs in the Peach Park Gardens, which offer a nice winding trail for road trippers to get out of their car and walk around.

At the top of the trail is a porch with rocking chairs and picnic tables that lead to a pathway toward the woods. Once in the woods the trail winds over small bridges and lead you to playgrounds, a swinging chair and picnic tables of all sizes for children and adults.

“To get out of the car and be able to walk around our trails was the whole concept because a lot of people are coming a long way to get to the beaches,” Gray said. “My dad always joked around that you could get your kids out of the car and let them run around so they get tired and are ready to rest when you get back in the car.”

Gray said he has seen visitors from people as far away as Wisconsin and New York.

“I feel like I’ve seen somebody form just about every state in the U.S. come by,” he said.

Peach Park is open 8 a.m.-9 p.m. seven days a week from March until the end of November. If you’ve never been, take advantage of these hours and stop by and see Gray who loves seeing first timers.

“Seeing people that come in for the first time and enjoy our products really holds a special place in my heart,” Gray said. “We love all of our repeat customers as well, but there’s just a certain amount of joy you get from somebody new stopping by.”