Additionally, Whirlpool Corporation is returning as the Cook-off sponsor.
The Cowpea Festival and Cook-off is set for Sept. 13, starting at 10 a.m.
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 106-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 Brothers & Company as well as the many products and programs Bush offers.
Whirlpool Corporation is Bradley County’s largest employer and has a long history of being a generous corporate citizen. The Whirlpool Cowpea Cook-off features professional chefs preparing recipes using a variety of cowpeas from Bush Brothers.
Whirlpool brings five gas ranges for on-site cooking demonstrations in the park. Festival-goers who purchase a $5 souvenir spoon can taste the culinary creations and vote on their favorite.
“We are so excited and thankful to have Bush Brothers & Company Whirlpool Corporation sticking with us,” said Melissa Woody, event co-chair and vice president for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“The involvement of well-respected, national brands and households name like Bush Brothers and Whirlpool raises the level of credibility and visibility of the event,” 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 all our sponsors will be proud to support.”
This “harvest festival with the funny name” is rooted in the area’s authentic agricultural heritage.
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 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 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 including live music, storytelling, character greetings and a family fun field with games and air toys.
A marketplace will offer handmade arts and crafts, fresh produce and booths featuring festival sponsors and heritage information telling Charleston’s nationally significant history. Food vendors will have popular festival food favorites available for purchase.
The festival website www.cowpeafestival.com includes information on activities and is being updated with more scheduled items on a daily basis.
Leading up to the event, a photo competition will focus on agriculture and landscapes. The competition will spotlight amateur photographers, and work will be displayed at the festival. 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.”
Any proceeds from the event will go toward the development of the Hiwassee River Heritage Center, which opened in May 2013 and is located on Highway 11 in Charleston.
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.