Grand Ole Opry star to headline Cowpea Festival
by Special to the Banner
Aug 10, 2014 | 1160 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mike Snider
Mike Snider
Champion banjo player and humorist Mike Snider will headline the third annual International Cowpea Festival and Cook-off presented by Bush Brothers & Company on Saturday, Sept. 13.

Snider has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1990 and frequently performs on the Opry’s legendary show. He was also a regular cast member for seven years on the popular family variety show “Hee Haw,” a weekly staple in many Southern homes.

“Mike is going to put on a great show,” said Melissa Woody, festival co-chair and vice president for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Convention & Visitors Bureau. “He will have everyone laughing, but at the same time amazed at his incredible musical talent. He will bring so much fun to our festival.”

Woody said Snider is a great fit for the “down-home” character of the festival. Snider will take the stage at 6:30 p.m. for this free concert.

Organizers say festival-goers should bring chairs and plan to stay all day to enjoy activities and great festival food from more than a dozen food vendors.

The festival kicks off at 10 a.m. with activities throughout the day. Leading up to Snider, live music will begin at noon with Tim Chastain and 8 Days After, followed by Bob Corley at 1 p.m., Cash Only at 2 p.m., Zach Dylan at 3 p.m., Bad Tattoo at 4 p.m. and The Collins Brothers Band, sponsored by Don Ledford Automotive Center, at 5 p.m.

“We have so much talent in our county and region,” Woody said. “We are proud to showcase so many great artists at the festival. All of the artists are as country as cowpeas, but each present their own style and brand of country music. We are excited to enjoy the variety.”

The Whirlpool Cowpea Cook-off features professional chefs preparing recipes using a variety of cowpeas from Bush Brothers. Whirlpool brings five gas ranges for on-site cooking demonstrations in the park. Festival-goers who purchase a $5 souvenir spoon can taste the culinary creations and vote on their favorite. Tasting will take place from 2 to 5 p.m.

Amateur chefs can enter the Amateur Cook-off in three categories — Appetizer, Entrée and International Flair. Entries must be checked in at the park by noon. Complete rules and regulations can be found on

This “harvest festival with the funny name” is rooted in the area’s authentic agricultural heritage. Charleston was once known as the cowpea capital of the United States because of the large amount of peas grown in the area and shipped to markets far and away.

“Cowpea” is the general name for the crowder pea, black-eyed pea, cream pea, silver-hull and other field pea varieties known as vigna unguiculata.

“This unique festival is a great way to recognize an authentic agri-heritage as well as a protein-rich food that is a big part of our Southern diet,” said Darlene Goins, festival co-chair and treasurer for the Charleston-Calhoun-Hiwassee Historical Society.

“Charleston is just full of surprises, and the fact that the small community was a major exporter of this staple on our tables is another interesting chapter in Charleston’s story.”

In addition to music throughout the day and the Cowpea Cook-off, the festival will feature storytelling, character greetings and a family fun field with games and air toys. A marketplace will offer handmade arts and crafts, fresh produce and booths featuring festival sponsors and heritage information telling Charleston’s nationally significant history. A character greeting, sponsored by Meagher & Meagher Furniture will feature the “Princess and the Cowpea” for photo opportunities. Food vendors will have popular festival food favorites available for purchase. The festival website includes information on activities and is being updated with more scheduled items on a daily basis.

Leading up to the event, a photo competition will focus on agriculture and landscapes. The competition, sponsored by Homestead Lawn & Tractor, will spotlight amateur photographers, and work will be displayed at the festival. Professional printing of the winning photos is provided by CPQ Professional Imaging. The deadline for entries is approaching. Competition details are also on the event website.

The event would not be possible without sponsors. In addition to Bush Brothers, Whirlpool, Don Ledford Automotive, Homestead Lawn and Tractor, CPQ and Meagher and Meagher Furniture, “V.I.Pea” sponsors also include Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, Companion Funeral & Cremation Service, Haney Meat Company, Olin Chlor-Alkali and Resolute Forest Products and. Cowpea Pals include Ace Hardware, Beaty Fertilizer, Blossman Gas, Cleveland Daily Banner, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Farm Bureau of Bradley County, Farm Bureau Insurance, Farm Credit, Hampton Inn, Kodiak Manufacturing, Mix 104.1 WCLE and Wampler’s Farm Sausage.

Any proceeds from the event will go toward the operations of the Hiwassee River Heritage Center, which opened in May 2013 and is located on Highway 11 in Charleston.

Anyone interested in supporting this community effort should contact Melissa Woody at 423-472-6587 or Darlene Goins at 423-413-8284.