The lure of ideal weather, and the opportunity for an amazing family outing, resulted in an apparent record crowd at Saturday’s Sixth Annual International Cowpea Festival and Cook-off in …
The lure of ideal weather, and the opportunity for an amazing family outing, resulted in an apparent record crowd at Saturday’s Sixth Annual International Cowpea Festival and Cook-off in Charleston.
Charleston Police Chief Johnny Stokes said the crowd should easily eclipse earlier attendance numbers, and festival officials agreed this year’s weather was the best ever.
The crowd threatened to overwhelm parking facilities, festival staff, and members of the Charleston Police Department and Bradley County Sheriff’s Office who provided security.
The crowd began arriving early, and continued through the afternoon.
John Goins, son of Hiwassee Heritage Center Director Darlene Goins, was coordinating parking efforts in two ball fields adjacent to the Charleston City Park and site of the festival.
The first (closest) ball field was filled by noon, and the second shortly after. Vehicles were backed up along the entrance road to the park, behind the Heritage Center between noon and 1 p.m.
Bradley Central High School’s Junior ROTC members assisted with the parking, and other needs. There were many volunteers visible in and around the festival site.
The Chef’s Cook-off began at 2 p.m., with the announcement of this year’s champion shortly after 5 p.m.
This year’s Cook-off winners were Dana and Kevin Caylor, owners of a mobile creperie and catering company, The Crepe Outdoors. The champions were determined by a vote of festival visitors, who tasted the delights of all five chefs.
Other Cook-off competitors were Kyla Dean of Cleveland’s Cupcake Club; William Shaw, the Sodexo chef at Erlanger Health System in Chattanooga; Chef Dawnielle Sandoval of Cleveland’s Tasteful Gatherings; and Chef Dona Hicks of Jenkins Restaurant in Athens.
There were 50 to 60 vendors located at the park early Saturday morning, and food vendors continued to be busy through the late morning hours and into the afternoon, The performance stage became active around noon as performers delighted visitors through the remainder of the afternoon.
Featured entertainment Saturday evening was the group, Iron Horse, of Muscle Shoals, Ala. They are a highly-acclaimed group of bluegrass musicians and innovators.
There were a number of events at the park Saturday, including a popular exhibit by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency. There was a Storytelling booth, and a selection of activities for children — including a Petting Zoo, horseback rides, and the Pumpkin Patch.
A variety of food items were available, too many to adequately describe.
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