Clarence Cowpea made his debut this week at the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce, in preparation for the second International Cowpea Festival and Cookoff which will be held Saturday at Charleston Park.
The festivities are set to begin at 10 a.m., then the day will wrap with entertainment by the Collins Brothers Band and Grammy winner Billy Dean.
“We are so excited to bring great food, fun and entertainment to Charleston,” said Melissa Woody, vice president of the Chamber’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, as well as a key organizer of the event.
The Whirlpool Cowpea Cook-off is the centerpiece of the International Cowpea Festival and Cook-off and is presented by Bush Brothers & Company.
Organizers last year were pleased with the turnout and an even bigger crowd is expected Saturday.
The community is invited to participate in the Cowpea Cook-off portion of the event sponsored by Whirlpool Corporation, according to Woody.
Professional and amateur chef divisions are available for entries using any variety of cowpea, a variety of the black-eyed pea.
Charleston was once known as “Cowpea Capital of the United States” because of the large amounts grown in the area, and shipped to markets both near and far.
“Five professional chefs will be cooking their cowpea culinary masterpieces and serving up samples from 2 to 5 p.m. The purchase of a souvenir spoon for $5 gets a sample cup from each chef’s recipe during this time,” Woody said.
Spoon holders have the opportunity to vote for their favorite cowpea creation and the winning chef will be crowned the “crowd favorite” and have bragging rights for the next year.
Only 600 spoons will be sold. Spoons can be purchased at the festival beginning at 10 a.m., or the Hiwassee River Heritage Center, Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Spoon sales have been ongoing during the past week.
Cowpea creations in the Amateur Chef division will be judged by a panel of judges. Anyone not paid to cook can enter the three amateur cook-off categories which include appetizer, entrée and international flair. Individuals may enter only one prepared recipe per category. No fee is required to enter the amateur portion of the cookoff. Cash prizes will be awarded in each category.
Food items and written recipes must be checked into the Cook-off Corner by noon. Entries arriving after noon will not be accepted.
Full guidelines on entering the three categories of the amateur cook-off are available at www.cowpeafestival.com.
Festival T-shirts will also be for sale for $10 as well as opportunities to win a Whirlpool Gas Range, KitchenAid Stand-up Mixer and a piece of farm equipment from Kodiak Manufacturing for a $5 suggested donation.
“Cowpea” is the general name for the crowder pea, black-eyed pea, cream pea, purple–hull, silver-hull and other field pea varieties known as vigna unguiculata.
The festival will offer entertainment throughout the day with musical artists, dancers and storytelling. The “Princess and the Cowpea” Pageant, sponsored by Meagher & Meagher Furniture featuring Jamison Bedding, will start at 10:30 a.m.
Haney Meat Company is sponsoring the Heritage Way booths that display agricultural and heritage information telling Charleston’s nationally significant history.
Olin is sponsoring the Family Fun Field which will include games, art projects and air toys. The Family Fun Field also features the Piggly Wiggly Petting Zoo and a special appearance by the famous Cashdales of Check Into Cash. Crown of Cleveland is sponsoring the Marketplace offering booths with arts and crafts, produce and other goods. Resolute Forest Products is sponsoring Storytelling for all ages presented by the Cleveland Storytelling Guild.
Food vendors will have concessions available.
Billy Dean will take the stage at 6:30 p.m., courtesy of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Tennessee Arts Commission. The Collins Brothers Band will open for Dean and they are sponsored by Companion Funeral and Cremation Services, according to Woody. Other talent in the lineup includes The Funny Dummy Show, Cool Mule, Bad Tattoo, Kennedy, Sydney & Friends, The Lattimores and Men of Praise.
NewsChannel 9’s Sarah Jennings will emcee the festivities.
CPQ Professional Imaging Inc. and Homestead Lawn & Tractor Co. sponsored a photo competition leading up to this weekend’s event. Winning photos will be displayed at the park on festival day and later at the new Hiwassee River Heritage Center in Charleston as a temporary exhibit.
“Other towns have unique food festivals celebrating everything from cornbread and green beans to banana pudding and biscuits,” said Woody.
“We want to be on the ‘plate’ so to speak. We have a true history with the cowpea and want to celebrate its place in Southern culture.”
Supporting sponsors for the event include Kodiak Manufacturing, Wampler’s Farm Sausage, Bradley County Farm Bureau and Farm Bureau Insurance, Ace Hardware, Farm Credit, Hampton Inn & Suites, Vision Hospitality, River Maze on the Ocoee, Beaty Fertilizer, Blossman Gas, Cleveland Insurance and John Thompson Produce. Proceeds from the event support the operations of the Hiwassee River Heritage Center.
“Bring a chair and stay for the day. It will be a fun-filled atmosphere with plenty of activity for the whole family,” Woody said.
Visit www.cowpeafestival.com for more details.