Cowpea Festival looking for its Sept. 14 ‘princess’
by Special to the Banner
Aug 15, 2013 | 2291 views | 0 0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Every homegrown festival needs a Southern beauty to represent the event in the community and the International Cowpea Festival and Cook-off, presented by Bush Brothers & Company, is no exception.

Organizers have announced the second “Princess and the Cowpea” Natural Beauty Pageant sponsored by Meagher & Meagher Furniture featuring Jamison Bedding. The pageant will be a main-stage activity at the Sept. 14 festival and will begin at 10 a.m.

Hans Christian Anderson penned the familiar fairy tale, “The Princess and the Pea” where the prince searched for a true princess to be his wife. The queen confirmed the royal status of the prospective bride by placing a tiny pea under a stack of mattresses to see if the princess could sleep well with the hidden lump. A real princess is so delicate, she would be able to sense any part of the bed less than perfect, even the size of a pea.

“Our Southern beauties won’t have to pass the mattress and the pea test to be crowned a princess,” said Christy Goins, pageant coordinator for the International Cowpea Festival and Cook-off Committee. “Their challenge will be sharing natural beauty and sweet smiles to a panel of experienced judges. We are excited about the pageant component of the festival and think it will add so much to a full day of fun activities.”

Judges will award princess crowns in six categories as well as an overall Miss Cowpea Princess from the category winners. The six categories are based on contestants’ ages and include:

- Baby Miss Cowpea Princess, age 0-12 months;

- Tiny Miss Cowpea Princess, ages 13-35 months;

- Wee Miss Cowpea Princess, ages 3-4 years;

- Petite Miss Cowpea Princess, ages 5-6 years;

- Young Miss Cowpea Princess, ages 7-9 years; and

- Little Miss Cowpea Princess, ages 10-12 years.

An overall Miss Cowpea Princess will be selected from the princesses in each category. This award will be given to the contestant that the judges feel shows the best overall presentation. Personality and stage presence will play a major role in selection. Additionally, each contestant has the opportunity to submit photographs for a photogenic portion of the competition.

Complete guidelines and entry forms are available on the festival website at The entry fee for the pageant is $25 per contestant and an additional $10 to enter the photogenic competition. The deadline to enter the pageant is extended until Aug. 29 at this fee level. An extra charge will apply for entries after this date.

The distinction of a “natural beauty” pageant comes with certain expectations from the judges of the event. Judging will be based on natural appearance. Makeup should be minimal and look natural, organizers explained. Wigs, hairpieces and extensions are not permitted.

“We want to promote selection of a hometown face to represent this great festival,” Goins said. “We want our Miss Cowpea Princess to be a natural beauty who can represent the spirit of this event — a celebration of agriculture, heritage and hometown.”

“Princess and the Cowpea” is part of a day of fun planned for the International Cowpea Festival and Cook-off presented by Bush Brother’s & Company. The event is set for Sept. 14 and the pageant will begin at 10 a.m.

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 one-of-a-kind festival is a great way to recognize an authentic agri-heritage and celebrate a protein-rich favorite on Southern plates,” according to Melissa Woody and Darlene Goins, festival coordinators.

Throughout the day, the festival will feature musical artists, comedy and storytelling from the Cleveland Storytelling Guild sponsored by Resolute Forest Products. A marketplace, sponsored by Crown of Cleveland, will offer booths featuring arts and crafts, fresh produce and other goods. Food vendors will have concessions available. Booths displaying agricultural information as well as heritage information telling Charleston’s nationally significant history will be part of the festival. A Family Fun Field is sponsored by Olin and will feature games, art projects, face painting and air toys. The festival website includes information on activities and is being updated with more scheduled items on a daily basis.

GRAMMY Award-winning artist Billy Dean will headline the festival which will be held in the Charleston Park. Dean appears courtesy of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Convention & Visitors Bureau and will take the stage at 6:30 p.m. The Collins Brothers Band, courtesy of Companion Funeral & Cremation Services, will open up for Dean and round out a day of Tennessee talent sponsored by the Tennessee Arts Commission.

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 600 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

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