VARDAMAN – The 40th Annual Sweet Potato Festival is Saturday with more than 271 booths and a day of food and entertainment expected to bring thousands of people to the Sweet Potato Capital of the World.
The annual event draws state and national attention and is billed as one of the nicer small festivals in the country. And it has its roots – no pun intended – in the sweet potatoes grown in the surrounding, brown, sandy soil.
“It really is a unique festival in that it is themed around a crop that is so important to this community and a food item that is known virtually throughout the world,” said Maxine Blue, co-chairman of the Sweet Potato Festival. “This is a family event and this town has embraced it and has so much fun with it.”
Blue said the festival is organized and managed by local volunteers who work on different parts of the festival all year around.
“Things have gone very smooth this year and we hope to have a good time and hope people will buy from the booths,” said Blue. “The food is always good, we’ve got a top-notch entertainment lineup and we are selling boxes and boxes of sweet potatoes. It will be a fun day.”
Vardaman has a population of about 2,600. Blue estimated the festival draws from 8,000 to 10,000 people to town depending on the weather.
“People come back home to Vardaman every year to be part of this,” said Blue. “Churches, civic clubs, schools – they all set up a booth and raise money for their projects. This a major fundraiser for those groups and they are able to help people in our community all year based on what they do at the Sweet Potato Festival.”
She pointed to the Famous Vardaman Barbecue Chicken sold at the Fire Department that fund athletic programs throughout the community, and the Tater Taster’s booth that supports activities at Vardaman schools.
“We don’t have a major sponsor,” said Blue. “This is just local people coming together to put on this festival and have a lot of fun.”
The Sweet Potato Festival continues through the week with beauty pageants for different age groups. The event wraps up the following Saturday with the Sweet Potato Festival Banquet at Vardaman Gym.
Parking is always at a premium on Saturday and Blue suggested parking at First Baptist Church, First Methodist Church or Vardaman High School.
For information about the Vardaman Sweet Potato Festival, call 662-682-7559.