The last several weekends across the South featured at least one of the two days where it rained. Spring has been very wet across Alabama. Finally, last Saturday and Sunday were rain-free with bright sunshine and mild temperatures. In other words, it was a perfect excuse to get outside.
I decided to make the hour and a half drive to South Pittsburg, Tennessee for the 22nd Annual National Cornbread Festival. As one can guess, the highlight of the event is different types of homemade cornbread cooked in a cast iron skillet made by Lodge Manufacturing, the town’s primary employer. I went last year and decided to go again this year.
At first glance, the smell of delicious food from the vendors, music featuring the best bluegrass, country and soft rock bands, carnival rides, booths featuring uniquely designed arts and crafts and free cornbread samples along with the crowds made it hard to decide what to do first.
Before deciding to do anything, I realized I was hungry and decided to have an early lunch from one of the local churches that were having a fish fry. The plates featured fried whiting, hush puppies, coleslaw, pinto beans and cornbread. I took my lunch and listened to a Chattanooga based blues band called Courtney Daly and the Daly Grind. You can hear their music on their Facebook page.
Once I had food in my stomach, I decided to participate in the tour of historic homes. Not only did the person at the ticket counter remember me from last year, but I ran into a couple from Cullman, Alabama who read my article in the March edition of Alabama Living about Storm Spotters.
What I like about the tour is not only does one get to ride in an air-conditioned bus, but the some of the homes on display change every year. For example, one of the houses that were new was one featuring a house once owned by a man who helped start the Dixie Highway, a pre-interstate highway that ran from Chicago to Miami and passed north of South Pittsburg on the way to Chattanooga. The tour guide grew up in the town, and I enjoyed many of his stories of days gone by, including using dynamite to explode rock in the caves in the hills outside of South Pittsburg (don’t worry, he said he would never let his grand kids pull that stunt today).
My next item on the agenda was touring the new Lodge factory where they make the skillets. This plant features more space and is quieter than the old location. I also talked with one of the managers who like me is responsible for his company’s newsletter and was glad to hear I started this blog.
Did I mention this festival had cornbread? I tried all different kinds of cornbread, including chicken sriracha, pineapple, sloppy joe, and chocolate. Some of the booths had free samples of cornbread while those wanting larger pieces of cornbread could pay $5 and go through the line at Cornbread Alley and sample recipes made by various organizations within the community.
No trip to the National Cornbread Festival is complete without ice cream from the Dixie Freeze, and I got a cup of soft-serve vanilla and saw the different vintage cars on display. Both were perfect for a warm day. The American Legion Post held its annual art and quilt show, which this year’s theme was local artists. I especially enjoyed the quilt made just for the National Cornbread Festival.
The highlight of the trip was visiting the Dollywood booth, which was one of the primary sponsors. Not only did I learn more about the theme park’s sensory room for people on the spectrum but after the representative from the park found out I had Aspergers, she asked for information about our organization.
Speaking of Aspergers, I also enjoyed the local Episcopal Church having its doors open for visitors to see the real stained glass that dates back to the late 1800's. While at their booth, I told the ladies I had Aspergers and that I suggested that their church and other churches in the community have their doors open to use as calming centers for people to get away from the crowds. I plan to make that suggestion to members of the festival committee for next year (at least for the Saturday portion of the event).
Even though I went by myself, I had a great time. The organizers did a great job in putting together the event. Next year, I might have to try coming on Sunday morning when, according to the National Cornbread Festival’s website, crowds are lighter, and the community-wide church service and pancake breakfast is taking place.
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