South Pittsburg, TN: National Cornbread Festival

If you're in East Tennessee in April and have time to stop by South Pittsburg, pull off the interstate into this little town.  As a native Tennessean, I've heard about the National Cornbread Festival most of my life but never got the chance to visit.  I follow the festival on social media and made plans to attend, this weekend.  I've been to many festivals but this is going up there on the list as one of my favorites.  There are four things I would recommend if you plan to attend: 1. Go on Sunday, it's still going to be crowded but not like Saturday.  2. Get your tickets in advance.  The line to purchase tickets was long, the pre-purchased line was not.  3. Don't forget your sunscreen and walking shoes.  There's tents to eat under but otherwise, you'll be in the sun.  There's LOTS of walking, so come prepared and save yourself the pain.  4. Bring some cash, not all vendors take cards.  

Whether you have been a cornbread lover all your life or you're just starting to try it out and want to explore all your options, there's something for everyone at the festival.  From the moment we entered the gates, I told my husband, "mmm... something smells good!" There were lots of free samples of different flavors of cornbread with big yellow signs to direct you to the freebies.  Some of the flavors included salsa, cinnamon sugar, and taco.  There were craft vendors set up ready to sell their homemade goods, food vendors, carnival rides for kids, live music with rocking chairs set up to relax and enjoy the tunes, and stages with cooking demos going on throughout the day by the Lodge company.  The windows of the local stores were painted with the festival logo, cornbread recipes, and fun cornbread sayings.  We ate a barbecue sandwich before heading over to the Lodge factory tours.  South Pittsburg is the home of all your cast iron needs whether it be a skillet or Dutch oven, the Lodge store has you covered.  Visitors to the festival got to take a self guided tour through the factory to see how Lodge makes their famous cast iron cookware.  Volunteers on golf carts continuously drove back and forth from the factory to the store to avoid making visitors walk long distances.  The highlight of the event for my husband and me was something called "Cornbread Alley."  You pay an additional $8.00 to enter this area of the festival.  Upon entering, you're given a paper plate which is then slowly filled with various flavors of cornbread that you receive at the table of each of the top 9 competitors in the cornbread competition.  Everything from peach to chicken n dressing to black eyed peas were on the menu!  Everyone was so friendly throughout the festival.  On the way out, we stopped at the main Lodge stage to see why a line had formed around the outside seating area.  Lodge company had set up a tent and was offering free samples of bacon barbecue pizza on a cornbread crust.  Yes, you heard me right: cornbread.  It was fantastic.  My overall takeaway from today's events is: mark your calendar for next April, keep up with the festival's social media page for updates, and don't miss this opportunity to enjoy unique sights and flavors you're only going to be able to get in South Pittsburg, Tennessee.