Bush Brothers & Company features several varieties of cowpeas in their product line, including black-eyed peas, crowder peas and purple-hulls. Bush Brothers & Company is a 104-year-old canning company that started in Chestnut Hill, and has grown to become a national distributor of an array of food products with baked beans as the centerpiece of the company’s offerings.
“This event is a great fit for us,” said Max Fultz, general manager for Bush’s Visitor Center, located in the general store founded in 1897 by company founder A.J. Bush.
“We are a company strong on heritage. We value our story and the Bush family legacy,” Fultz explained. “Charleston’s efforts to honor their heritage are admirable, and we are proud to be associated with an event that celebrates history as well as agriculture. You have to share your story or people will forget.”
Bush’s Visitor Center is located at 3901 U.S. Highway 411, Dandridge, in the Chestnut Hill community. The center includes a museum, café and a general store stocked with goodies, gifts and Bush products and souvenirs.
The center is open Monday through Saturday. Check out www.bushbeans.com for detailed information about visiting Bush
“We are so excited and thankful to have Bush Brothers & Company on board,” said Melissa Woody, event co-chair and vice president for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“The involvement of a well-respected, national brand and household name like Bush Brothers takes this event to another level,” Woody said. “We are grateful for the confidence placed in us as organizers and continue to work hard to plan a first-class event that Bush and all our sponsors will be proud to support.”
Charleston was once called 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, treasurer for the Charleston-Calhoun-Hiwassee Historical Society and festival co-chair.
“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.”
The festival will feature entertainment throughout the day, such as a “Princess and the Cowpea” Pageant, musical artists, storytelling, booths displaying agricultural information as well as heritage information telling Charleston’s nationally significant history. A children’s area will feature games and air toys, and a marketplace will offer with arts and crafts, fresh produce and other goods. Food vendors will have concessions available. The festival website www.cowpeafestival.com includes information on activities and is being updated with more scheduled items on a daily basis.
Grammy award-winning artist Suzy Bogguss will headline the festival which will be held in the Charleston Park. Bogguss will take the stage at 7 p.m.
The community is invited to participate in the cook-off portion of the event sponsored by Whirlpool Corporation. A professional and amateur chef division is available for entries using any variety of cowpea. Cowpea creations in the amateur chef division will be judged by a panel while the professional chef division will be judged by the first 500 people who purchase a souvenir spoon for $5.
Spoon-holders are entitled to tasting samples from the five professional chefs as well as door prize tickets. Whirlpool is bringing five gas ranges for on-site cooking demonstrations in the park. Details on entering the three categories of the amateur cook-off are available at www.cowpeafestival.com.
Leading up to the event, Homestead Lawn & Tractor Co. and CPQ Professional Imaging Inc. are sponsoring a photo competition focusing agriculture and landscape. The competition will spotlight amateur photographers, and work will be displayed at the new Hiwassee River Heritage Center in Charleston for an exhibit period. Competition details are also on the event website.
“Other towns have unique food festivals celebrating everything from cornbread and green beans to banana pudding and biscuits,” Woody noted. “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.”
“We are ºconstantly adding information to the website,” Woody said. “Watch for more details about the fun planned for Sept. 15.”
The Chamber’s Convention & Visitors Bureau, Farm Credit Services, Bradley County Farm Bureau and Farm Bureau Insurance, Ace Hardware and Blossman are some of the other sponsors supporting the event. Any proceeds from the event will go toward the development of the Hiwassee River Heritage Center.
Sponsorships are still available at all levels. Anyone interested in supporting this community effort should contact Melissa Woody at 423-472-6587 or Darlene Goins at 423-413-8284.