The festival season got underway on Sept. 14 in Charleston with the nation’s only Cowpea Festival which celebrates the area’s unique agricultural history. “Cowpea” is the general name for the crowder pea, black-eyed pea, cream pea, silver-hull and other field pea varieties. The annual festival is a tribute to this simple vegetable and attracts an array of cowpea chefs who do some amazing things with the humble bean.
Next up is the annual Apple Festival scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 19-20, on the Courthouse Square. This will be followed by the 26th annual Halloween Block Party on Thursday, Oct. 31.
The Cleveland Apple Festival is also a tribute to another important part of Bradley County’s agricultural heritage. Festivities will get underway Saturday at 10 a.m., and again Sunday at 1 p.m. Dozens of artists and craft exhibitors are expected to be on hand for the event, and vendor applications are available on the festival website.
The festival is a family event that offers a juried arts and crafts show, live music, food booths, pony and hay rides, entertainment, children's activities and much more. This year, children 12 and under are invited to visit the Trailhead Bicycle Kid’s Zone where all children’s activities are free … including pony rides.
One of the most popular events is the Apple Dessert Contest. Festival organizers are looking for the best homemade apple dessert in the Tennessee Valley. You can get an entry form from the festival website at www.clevelandapplefestival.org. Bring your recipe and dessert to the Gazebo on the Square Saturday morning for judging between 11:15 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Winners will be announced from the stage at 2 p.m. Submit your best apple dessert and you could win the $50 grand prize or a second place prize of $25.
Also on Sunday afternoon, girls between the ages of 5-12 are invited to compete for the titles of Little Miss Apple Blossom, Junior Miss Apple Blossom and Miss Apple Blossom. Each contestant will need to dress in their best farm or country girl outfit. Judging will be based on costume, personality and presentation. Sign-in is at 3:30 p.m., dress rehearsal and judge’s chat is at 4 p.m. with the contest at 5 p.m. The three age divisions are 5-7 years, 8-10 years and 11-12 years. The cost to enter is $20 for each contestant. The grand prize winner in each category will receive a $35 gift card.
The festival is a 501(c)(3) public charity and donates all net proceeds to other nonprofit organizations in Bradley County. Tickets are very reasonable and priced at $6 for a two-day pass for adults and $4 for senior citizens and children.
The Courthouse Square’s largest event of the year, of course, is the annual Block Party scheduled for Oct. 31. This is followed by the annual Christmas parade which will wind its way around the Courthouse in December as thousands line the streets for a glimpse of Old Saint Nick himself.
These fall festivals and other events are a part of our history and culture, and contribute to our community’s quality of life.
These are some of the many reasons I say … Bradley County is Tennessee at its best.