I have always been a big supporter of festivals, parades, homecomings and just about any kind of community celebration where people gather to eat, buy and sell, enjoy a little music and just have fun.
Over my career I have seen catfish festivals, lumberjack festivals, Christmas light festivals, motorcycle festivals, magnolia festivals and even a cow-chip chunking festival.
And while each had a different theme and flavor, they all shined a very positive light on the community or group that hosted them.
I feel festivals are a good economic indicator for a community and a good gauge of the quality of life and the quality of people you can find in your town.
In good economic times, people are eager to come out and spend a little cash on a funnel cake, a piece of yard art or buy a $5 hamburger from a friend.
Civic clubs, churches and the arts and crafts crowd have learned a festival is an easy way to make a dollar to finance their favorite cause, youth group or pay for their hobby.
And last but not least, these events show what kind of people make things happen in their little part of the world.
Festivals require volunteers – lots of them – and those worker bees come from the community. It doesn’t take a lot of money to host a festival. It does take a lot of people who will dedicate their time and effort to making it happen.
So let’s look at how we have a little fun.
This is Houston’s festival and it has been for 32 years. This is a spring and fall celebration that brings thousands to our community.
I had a businessman at one of our larger stores tell me his best non-holiday sales day was the Saturday Flywheel was spinning and he supports this festival wholeheartedly. Other stores in town need to get with the program.
The Flywheel is uniquely Houston. There are hundreds of Oktober Fests and thousands of spring-flings. Flywheel says a lot about Houston’s past, work ethic and the culture that has made this part of the world what it is.
Did I point out there are tractors, a fish fry, an anvil shoot and lots of good entertainment, too.
I was stunned when I pulled into Houlka Saturday morning. Cars were parked all the way out to Highway 32 and at least a thousand people were on the square.
They twisted my arm and made me taste all the cornbread, turnip greens, pinto beans and beef stew. And then made me vote on a winner. Entry No. 14 was packed with jalapeno peppers and definitely made an impression on me. There was also No. 21 that was crusty, firm and very sweet, so it got my vote.
There was also plenty of gospel music and vendors selling everything from honey and hair brushes to antiques and kitchen gadgets.
If event organizers will build on their first-year success, this event will be benefit Houlka for years to come.
Black-eyed Pea Festival
Saturday will mark the third year for the Black-Eyed Pea Festival in Mantee.
I’m not trying to hurt anybody’s feelings, but there are not a lot of reasons for me to go to Mantee any given weekend. I’ll be there Saturday and I hope to see you.
There will be quilts, a car show, country music and of course, black-eyed peas – lots of them.
It has also been great to see a community bank get back in the business of building community in Mantee. A committed sponsor for any festival can only help that festival and community get bigger and better.
Sweet Potato Festival
Need I say more?
There will be 10,000 people in Vardaman the first weekend in November. If nothing else, they have shown the rest of us what can happen when people who love their community find a way to tell the rest of the world about it.
Vardaman has embraced being the Sweet Potato Capital of the world. That festival means big bucks not only to Vardaman, but to vendors across North Mississippi. Barbecue, knives, high-dollar artwork, Kay Bain and plenty of little yellow roots make for a lot of fun in Vardaman. They do it right.
And it started years ago as a simple street party put together by a couple of dedicated farm folks.
There is the Chili Cookoff in Tupelo, Prairie Arts in West Point, Super-Bulldog Weekend in Starkville, Catfish Alley in Columbus, the Bodock Festival in Pontotoc and Riverfest in New Albany.
Each is unique to their town and each is a chance for that city or village to throw out the red carpet and invite people to shop and eat.
Each is also a chance for us to gather and point with pride to the community we call home.
Let’s have some fun. Let’s support our local festivals.
Floyd Ingram is Managing Editor/News for the Chickasaw Journal. He can be reached at 456-3771 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org