After two-year absence, National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, is coming back

Staff File Photo by Robin Rudd / Chefs from Richard Hardy Memorial School Athletics empty out another tray of their parmesan chive cornbread in Cornbread Alley during a previous National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg, Tenn.

After a two-year pandemic pause, the National Cornbread Festival will return to downtown South Pittsburg, Tennessee, this spring. The event, which draws an estimated 25,000 visitors, is set for the weekend of April 23-24.

A sizable gift from Lodge Manufacturing is helping with the comeback.

To mark its 125th anniversary in 2021, Lodge awarded the festival $125,000 in October, according to festival chairwoman Amy Rogers. Lodge, the oldest cast-iron cookware manufacturer in the country, has two foundries in South Pittsburg and has been a primary sponsor of the festival since its inception in 1997.

In a news release, Rogers, the festival's marketing chairwoman, said the donation was "received with welcoming arms by the festival committee."

She said the donation would go toward "many ongoing festival infrastructure needs such as replacing dilapidated ovens; repairing and replacing worn tents, fencing and gating; updating electrical equipment; replacing directional signage; and replacement of worn-out decorations."

The celebration of cornbread, which Rogers said is "often considered the cornerstone of Southern cuisine," is highlighted by a cook-off that draws 10 finalists from across the U.S. to create a main-dish cornbread recipe.

[READ MORE: Cookware maker Lodge adding 239 jobs in $59 million expansion in South Pittsburg]

[READ MORE: Lodge museum to open in South Pittsburg in summer 2022]

The festival also includes a Cornbread Alley of cornbread-inspired foods made by community groups, more than 50 musical acts on five stages, 100 arts and crafts vendors, children's activities, a 5K race and carnival. New this year is a Gran Fondo long-distance bike ride.

Admission to the festival is $10 (free to preschoolers), with the option to buy a two-day pass for $15. Cornbread Alley samples cost an additional $8. Tickets will be available in advance or at the gates.

- Compiled by Lisa Denton