The Whirlpool Cowpea Cook-off is the centerpiece of the International Cowpea Festival and Cook-off presented by Bush Brothers & Company and set for Sept. 15 in the Charleston Park. The festival is an all-day event beginning at 10 a.m.
The community is invited to participate in the Cowpea Cook-off portion of the event sponsored by Whirlpool Corp. Both professional and amateur chef divisions are available for entries using any variety of cowpea.
Whirlpool is bringing five gas ranges for an on-site professional chef cook-off in the park. Five professional chefs will be cooking their cowpea culinary masterpieces and giving demonstrations of their techniques from 1 to 5 p.m. Anyone who purchases a souvenir spoon for $5 gets a sample cup from each chef’s recipe during this time. Spoon holders have the opportunity to vote for the crowd favorite and are also registered for door prizes. Only 500 spoons will be sold. Spoons can be purchased on the day of the festival beginning at 10 a.m. or in advance at the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cowpea creations in the amateur chef division will be judged by a panel. Anyone not paid to cook can enter the three amateur cook-off categories which include appetizer, entrée and international flair. Individuals may enter only one prepared recipe per category. No fee is required, but prizes will be awarded for first (valued at $50) and second place (valued at $25) in each category.
Food items and written recipes must be checked into the Cook-off Corner by noon. Entries arriving after noon will not be accepted. Full guidelines on entering the three categories of the amateur cook-off are available at www.cowpeafestival.com.
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, purple – hull, silver-hull and other field pea varieties known as vigna unguiculata.
The festival offers entertainment throughout the day with musical artists, dancers and storytelling. The “Princess and the Cowpea” Pageant, sponsored by Meagher & Meagher Furniture featuring Jamison Bedding, will start at 11 a.m. The deadline to enter is Friday (Aug. 31). Haney Meat Company is sponsoring the Heritage Way, booths displaying agricultural information as well as heritage information telling Charleston’s nationally significant history.
Olin is sponsoring the Family Fun area which will include games, art projects and air toys. The Farm Credit of Mid-America Marketplace will offer booths 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. Bogguss will take the stage at 7 p.m., courtesy of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Convention & Visitors Bureau. The Collins Brothers Band will open for Bogguss and the group is sponsored by Grissom Funeral Home and Crematory, and Buckner Funeral Home and Crematory. Other talent in the lineup includes Perry Suits and the Third Degree, Heartstrings, The Roaring 50’s and others.
CPQ Professional Imaging Inc. and Homestead Lawn & Tractor Co. are sponsoring a photo competition leading up to the event. Winning photos will be displayed at the park on festival day and later at the new Hiwassee River Heritage Center in Charleston for an exhibit period.
“Other towns have unique food festivals celebrating everything from cornbread and green beans to banana pudding and biscuits,” said Melissa Woody, event co-chair and vice president for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Convention & Visitors Bureau. “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.”
Other sponsors supporting the event include Bradley County Farm Bureau and Farm Bureau Insurance, Ace Hardware, River Valley Ag Credit and Cracker Barrel. Any proceeds from the event will go toward the development of the Hiwassee River Heritage Center.
Anyone interested in supporting this community effort should contact Melissa Woody at 423-472-6587 or Darlene Goins at 423-413-8284.
Rules and Regulations
Cowpea is the general name for varieties of peas known as vigna unguiculata. Cowpea varieties include, but are not limited to, crowder, black-eyed, silver- and purple-hull, purple-eyed, field, southern and cream. Charleston was once known as the Cowpea Capital of the U.S. because large amount of peas were grown in Charleston and shipped to markets far and away.
Charleston celebrates this agricultural heritage with the Cowpea Cook-off. Below can be found the cook-off’s rules, guidelines and regulations:
1. The Cowpea Cook-off calls for appetizers, entrees and international flair (three separate categories) that include any variety of pea in the cowpea family as a main ingredient. All recipes submitted must be able to be fully sampled and appreciated in one bite. Participants should plan to bring enough for a panel of three judges.
a. Appetizers would include recipes that would normally be consumed as a snack, dip or other dish that would not be considered a meal. If the recipe requires a chip or cracker, bring that as well. Must be able to be sampled in one bite.
b. Entrees would include recipes that are considered hearty enough for a meal with the main ingredient being cowpeas. Must be able to be sampled in one bite.
c. International Flair would include recipes using spices or styles that are considered international. The name of your creation should reflect the culture represented. Must be able to be sampled in one bite.
2. There is not a fee to enter and winners will be awarded prizes — $50 valued prize for first place in each category, and $25 valued prize for second place. An individual may submit only one entry per category.
3. Entries should be brought to the Cook-off Corner in Charleston Park (near the gazebo) at noon for judging. Winners will be announced at 6:30 p.m. Entries arriving at the Cook-off Corner after noon will not be accepted.
4. Each person entering the Cowpea Cook-off will fill out an entry form upon arriving with their creation. Each entry should have a name and should be accompanied by the recipe to be attached to the entry form.
5. Entries should be prepared with the utmost consideration of clean cooking practices. Prepare the meal as if you are feeding it to your family or loved ones.