In their own web site, the people of Emerson, Arkansas call their festival, “The Purple Hull Pea Festival and World Championship Rotary Tiller Race, “ … quirky … and … fun.” From this observation post, they are truthful on both accounts. The longevity of the award-winning festival, the idea of which was hatched in 1990, seems to underscore the accuracy of their description of the event. The crowds just keep on coming. In your wildest dreams, you do not expect to hear of such an event.
To learn how the festival came to be and to see more festival pictures, take a short trip to the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com and get in on the start of the story. We’ll wait for you here.
The two day festival is a Friday-Saturday affair. Down south, you go to church on Sunday. In true home-town fashion, the festival, for the most part, fills the Emerson School grounds. It spills over into some adjacent residential neighborhoods, but in Emerson, that’s no big deal and not a problem. The schedule on Friday includes a Pea Lunch, cake auction, gospel entertainment, the start of the festival basketball tournament and a bunch more. The action really really heats up on Saturday morning with the tiller races.
Close on the heels of the tiller races, is a parade featuring a great collection of restored farm tractors, Miss Purple Hull, and a lot more. The parade, unlike those of larger venues does not drag on for hours. (Speaking of tractors, be sure and click on the gallery link at the bottom of this page to see more of the great collection of tractors at this festival). The parade is short, full of good stuff and has a down-home personal feeling to it not found in bigger parades. After the parade, there is a go-slow tractor race. The idea is to cover the ground in the longest time, idling in low gear without killing the engine. The comments from the master of ceremonies are reason enough to attend the event. What a hoot!
There was a lot of stuff for sale at the festival. Two vendors caught my eye, both of which were selling purple hull peas. The first, John KIrkpatrick of Willisville, Arkansas is a circuit riding fresh vegetable dealer. His veggies are frozen, but not the crass commercial kind. His merchandise is not long out of the field when the frigid air hits it. It comes, for the most part in two-bushel bags.
He pulls a long trailer which holds four large freezers chock full of peas, okra, corn, and scads of other desirable veggies. He follows a route to a number of towns in south Arkansas and East Texas, where he has a following. He carries a portable generator with him and runs it when his cargo begins to defrost.
On the other side of the festival grounds, Danny Gryder a truck-farmer from Plain Dealing, Louisiana is peddling freshly hulled peas. He brought more than forty large bags (toe-sacks in proper southern parlance) of fresh un-shelled peas straight from the fields − and his pea sheller. He set up his machine and started shelling peas on the spot.
The curiosity of the pea huller and the appeal of freshly shelled peas was a siren song to festival attendees. Danny sold out of peas by 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. “I’ll bring a bunch more next time,” he said.
Danny had a few peas left which he handed over to me and I subsequently handed over to my 94-year-old mother after a short drive. Mom was grateful, the quantity was just right for her. “Just barely enough to make a mess,” Danny said as he handed them over. To non-southerners, a “mess” is roughly enough of any vegetable to make enough servings for a meal, such as, ” … hon, Danny gimme a mess of peas.” “Well wundunat sweet of ‘im Cletus. Didja thank ‘im?” “Yessum.”
All I can say to the folks at Emerson is, ” … y’all done good,” one of the highest compliments proffered from one southerner to another. And if it wasn’t so, I wouldna sed it.
See much more festival in our high-resolution gallery
Each week, we shoot more pictures than we have room to publish. So we post all the pictures, used and those not seen anywhere else in our high resolution gallery. The pictures are bigger and better. My friend Cletus says, ” … Joe, thim pitchers in that gallery are more clearer.” We’re talking more tractors, more parade, more tiller racing. Click here to see these pictures.
Thanks for dropping by,
Filed under: Behind the Scenes, but wait, there's more | Tagged: 1956 Chevy four door Bel Air, fire truck, firetruck, old tractor, parade, pea sheller, purple hull pea, Purple Hull Pea Festival, Purple Hull Pea Festival and World Champion Ship Rotary Tiller Race, Rotary Tiller race | 3 Comments »