Area festivals signal the arrival of autumn
by D. Gary Davis
Oct 16, 2012 | 597 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The fall festival season has arrived in Bradley County. It got under way on Sept. 15 in Charleston with the nation’s only Cowpea Festival. Next up is the annual Apple Festival, followed by the Halloween Block Party.

The inaugural International Cowpea Festival, which was held in Charleston City Park, celebrated the area’s unique agricultural history. Charleston was once known as the Cowpea Capital of the United States because of the large amount of cowpeas grown here and shipped to markets across the nation. “Cowpea” is the general name for the crowder pea, blackeyed pea, cream pea, silver-hull and other field-pea varieties. The festival’s tribute to this simple vegetable attracted an array of cowpea chefs who did some amazing things with the humble bean.

The Cleveland Apple Festival will arrive on the Courthouse Square this Saturday and Sunday. The festival is also a tribute to another important part of Bradley County’s agricultural heritage.

Festivities will get under way Saturday at 10 a.m. and again Sunday at 1 p.m. Dozens of artists & craft exhibitors are expected to be on hand for the event and vendor applications are available on the festival website.

The festival is a family event that offers a juried arts and crafts show, live music, food booths, pony and hay rides, entertainment, children's activities and much more. This year, children 12 and under are invited to visit the Trailhead Bicycle Kids Zone where all children’s activities are free … including pony rides.

One of the most popular events is the Apple Dessert Contest. Festival organizers are looking for the best homemade apple desert in the Tennessee Valley. You can get an entry form from the festival website at www.clevelandapplefestival.org. Bring your recipe and dessert to the “Gazebo on the Square” Saturday morning for judging between 11:15 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Winners will be announced from the stage at 2 p.m. Submit your best apple dessert and you could win the $50 grand prize or a second place prize of $25.

Also on Sunday afternoon girls aged 5 to 12 are invited to compete for the titles of Little Miss Apple Blossom, Junior Miss Apple Blossom and Miss Apple Blossom. Each contestant will need to dress in their best farm or country girl outfit. Judging will be based on costume and presentation. Sign-in is at 3:30 p.m., dress rehearsal and judge’s chat is at 4 p.m. and the contest begins at 5 p.m. The three age divisions are 5-7 years, 8-10 years and 11-12 years. The cost to enter is $20 for each contestant. The festival is a 501(c)(3) public charity and donates all net proceeds to other nonprofit organizations in Bradley County.

The Courthouse Square’s largest event of the year of course is the annual Halloween Block Party scheduled for Oct. 31. This is followed by the annual Christmas parade which will wind its way around the Courthouse in December as thousands line the streets for a glimpse of Old Saint Nick himself.

These fall festivals and other events are a part of our history and culture, and they contribute to our community’s quality of life. These are more of the many reasons I say … Bradley County is Tennessee at its best.