by Amanda Pugh
Small towns form the backbone of the South. It is where we get our character, and our spirit, and most definitely where we get our color. You can find some of the best food, people, and stories in our small Southern towns.
And you know something else you can find?
We can take any place or thing (bonus points if it is particular to the neighborhood) and by gum, we can make it a reason to party. Of course, growing up in West Tennessee as I was most fortunate to do, I can tell you about some of the most fun (and unusual) festivals you have ever had the pleasure to encounter.
One of the best known in this area is the Humboldt Strawberry Festival in Humboldt TN.
It is a week long event with pageants and parades (I marched in the Grand Floats parade all four years I was in high school with my marching band, even with strep throat my senior year) celebrating all things strawberry. The citizens of Humboldt and Gibson County take great pride in this annual event and it shows in the care they take with the details and the pride that shines from their eyes during the first or second week in May, depending.
Depending on what you might ask?
Well, that brings me to the next well known event in West Tennessee, the World’s Largest Fish Fry in Paris TN. The Strawberry folks usually try not to have these two events overlap because of the crowds (and the revenue) they bring their respective towns.
There is not a catfish in the state safe the week this party- we’re talking vats of fish fillets, hush puppies, and all the trimmings. And yep, there’s a parade at the end of this festival (and yep I marched in this one) too. It’s a week of good fun and good food.
Next up I have to tell you about the Teapot Festival in Trenton, TN. Somehow, Trenton wound up with a beautiful teapot museum and so in grand Southern tradition, they decided to celebrate it with an annual festival. It IS a beautiful collection, so I can’t say as I blame them one bit for wanting to celebrate them-I would too.
They also have the Iris Festival in Dresden, TN, which started out as the town’s Easter parade and evolved into a huge event that draws big crowds every year, honoring Tennessee’s state flower.
But one of the most “huh?” inducing events each year would be the Doodle Soup Days in Bradford, TN.
Yeah. Doodle soup.
Bradford is famous for its doodle soup recipe, which (without giving up too much of the secret) involves chicken broth and seasonings and eaten with bread or crackers. They say that its main characteristic is a strong taste of vinegar (at least it does on the festival’s website). Bradford is quite proud of this decades old recipe- and as their website says, “Why not?”
That is one thing I love about the South- we can and will have a party at the slightest provocation. And give us a little bit of time and we will make the world party with us.
Y’all come join in!
(Originally appeared in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, September 2017)