IF YOU GO
• What: National Cornbread Festival
• When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. CDT today
• Where: Cedar Avenue, South Pittsburg, Tenn. (take Exit 152 off I-24 and follow Highway 72 west for 1.5 miles)
• Admission: $5 per day, $2 additional for Cornbread Alley samples.
• Website: www.nationalcornbread.com.
CORNBREAD COOKOFF WINNERS
1st place: Jennifer Peckman, Falls Church Va.
Tennessee onion soup gratin
2nd Place: Margee Berry, White Salmon, Wash.
Caramelized maple apple bacon brunch bake
3rd Place: Andria Gaskins, Matthews, N.C.
Sausage and spinach calzone cornbread
Source: Cornbread festival
SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. - Chatter about the week's deadly storms could be heard at the National Cornbread Festival, but for most Saturday was simply a day to get away for a while.
Cedar Avenue in downtown South Pittsburg was packed almost as soon as organizers opened the 15th annual National Cornbread Festival.
The festival site was crammed with everything from boiled peanut stands to jewelry shops and, of course, cornbread in every conceivable permutation.
"We have a wonderful weekend weatherwise, in contrast to what we had in the region in the last few days," said festival President Ed Fuller.
Tens of thousands of people walked the festival's four blocks Saturday, the biggest day of the weekend festival, he said.
But Fuller guessed attendance would be down 5 percent to 10 percent from the 50,000 average because of the tornadoes the claimed lives and shattered communities across the South.
Donation points were set up within the festival.
Zumba instructor Ashley Pemberton and several volunteers put together a "Zumbathon" for tornado victims. The Latin-dance style exercise program is a recent fitness craze.
Zumba volunteer Holly Morgan said the group had collected more than $500 since Thursday night for the Red Cross.
"People who see our signs just walk in to donate money," Morgan said. Around her people wrote their names on colored fliers they were taping on the window to show the community's support.
Still, spirits bubbled with the carnival atmosphere, the rides and games and food offerings ranging from shrimp jambalaya to roasted sweet corn.
Bobby and Sue Tosh drove two hours from Cookeville, Tenn. And it was worth it, they said as they exited Cornbread Alley, where attendees pay $2 to try up to nine cornbread samples.
Ivan Richard, basketball and baseball coach at Richard Hardy Memorial School, was one of the chefs at Hammer's Cornbread Alley.
This year his specialty was the "Outrageous Cornbread with a Snap," made with jalapeños, cheddar cheese and creamed corn.
The booth will raise $800 to $1,000 for uniforms and athletic programs, Richard said.
"It means a lot, especially during these times, when fundraising is hard," he said as the cornbread baked in the oven.
The festival also includes a national cook-off, and this year the winner was Jennifer Peckman.