When the leaves are ablaze, forks around Tennessee are raised to endlessly eat around the state. Take a bite out of the Volunteer State with food festivals ranging from breakfast to burgers. If all this talk of food is making your stomach grumble, head over to www.tnvacation.com and start planning a food festival trip.
In the early 1900s, Charleston, Tenn. was once known as the Cowpea Capital of the United States. Today, the town celebrates the cowpea with the International Cowpea Festival & Cook-off Sept. 12 at the public park in Charleston, Tenn. The Cowpea Cook-off, sponsored by Whirlpool Corporation, features professional chefs preparing appetizers, entrees and international flair that include any variety of pea in the cowpea family as the main ingredient. Cook-off tasting for visitors who purchase a $5 souvenir spatula will take place from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
More than 110,000 visitors flock to the annual Unicoi Apple Festival 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 2-3 in Erwin. It's consistently been named one of the top 20 events in the Southeast by Southeast Tourism Society. It's a festival that also honors the arts with exhibitions in painting, photography, wood-turning, sculpture, and more. Since Tennessee is the Soundtrack of America, the festival wouldn't be complete without a stage, or in this case, three stages with live music that compliments the array of tournaments and activities.
Area restaurants and more than 100 wineries from around the world will come to 21st annual Wine over Water Oct. 3 along the Walnut Street Bridge, which extends over the Tennessee River and is one of the world's longest pedestrian bridges. Regional musicians will entertain the droves with music varying from jazz to classic bluegrass. Enjoy heavy hors d'oeuvres from restaurants like 121 Market, Foodworks, The Walden Club, Bluff View Bakery, St. John's Meeting Place and more. Wineries will be listed in the coming weeks.
Some of the biggest chefs will attend the Music City Food + Wine Festival Sept. 19-20 in downtown Nashville. Guests like Carla Hall, Marcus Samuelsson, Graham Elliot, Andrew Zimmern, and Maneet Chauhan of the Food Network's Chopped will bring their expertise and talents on a variety of panel discussions and provide cooking demonstrations. Indulge in more than 60 food, spirits and wine vendors and have a night cap while enjoying live music by Kings of Leon.
The Great Pumpkin Festival and Weigh-off will take place Oct. 3 in Allardt. It may not be a food festival, but it's still an important event as the festival made a new state record last year with a more than 1400 lb. pumpkin. Additionally, a 251-lb. watermelon and a 788.5 lb. green squash took top honors. Food vendors are set up throughout the festival and a pumpkin run, antique tractor show and the pumpkin festival parade round out the highlights of the event.
Called the most prestigious barbecue competition in the world, the Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue welcomes world-class ‘cuers to compete for a substantial amount of prize money Oct. 24 in Lynchburg. Award-winning teams will smoke and seer meats like pork ribs, chicken, pork shoulder and butts, beef brisket and more. A dessert category is even included. Games include the country dog contest, butt bowling, cooking and grilling demonstrations, live music and a pie auction.
The spirit of agriculture is embodied in the Soybean Festival Sept. 3-13 in Martin. Soybean and soybean farmers are celebrated and the soybean's economic impact on Martin and Tennessee are commemorated each year. The festival draws approximately 35,000-40,000 people in-state and from around the nation. Music will fill the air among the array of other activities and competitions featuring 7 Bridges, Sept. 6; Mike Snider String Band Sept. 8; Sanctus Real Sept. 9; Joan Jett & The Blackhearts Sept. 10; Donna Ulisse and Night Ranger Sept. 11; and Joe Nichols Sept. 12.
The most important meal of the day gets its own festival at BreakFEST Sept. 26 at the Water Tower Pavilion in the Broad Avenue Arts District. Breakfast and brunch will be the topics as teams will compete in five cooking categories from breakfast sandwiches, sweets, bacon, omelets and a "Anything Goes" category. Music from Alexis Grace will be featured; and food trucks like Bluff City Biscuits, Merge Memphis and more will serve breakfast essentials will be featured. Patrons can also sample 10 Bloody Mary's from local restaurants and vote for the winner.
Grills will be filled with burger concoctions some only dream of at Best Memphis Burger Fest Oct. 3 in downtown Memphis. The competitions will attract some of the best teams around to compete in categories like Veggie Burger, Anything But Burger and Best Memphis Burger categories. There's also a Slider Eating Competition that saw 13 sliders eaten in seven minutes. The Slider Inn will provide the burgers for those who want to step up and break last year's record.
What's your favorite food festival in Tennessee? Share with me in the comment box below!