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Cornbread!

  • photo
    Guests stroll the streets of South Pittsburg during the National Cornbread Festival.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
    enlarge photo

Needing a big idea to help breathe new life into a small town, South Pittsburg came up with a recipe for growth 15 years ago.

The result was the National Cornbread Festival, a two-day event on the last weekend of April that brings in more than 50,000 visitors annually and has pumped new life into the town. A Friday night street dance opens the festival each year, and the event includes a carnival, arts and crafts, music on nearly every street corner and food vendors with every type of cornbread imaginable.

While the Cornbread Festival now is the biggest tourist draw for the town, there are many other quaint reasons to take the short drive 30 miles west of Chattanooga.

-- Compiled by staff writer Stephen Hargis

A SLICE OF CORNBREAD

• Population: 3,295

• Biggest employers: Lodge Manufacturing and Sequatchie Concrete

• Date founded: May 23, 1876

• History: Because the city is on the banks of the Tennessee River, it was expected to attract so much industry that it would become the "Pittsburgh of the South." That is how the city's name originated, although the industry boom never materialized.

• Most famous residents: James T. Fitzgerald was the second American test pilot to break the sound barrier; Jobyna Raulston was a silent film and Broadway actress in the 1920s; Eddie Moore was an All-SEC linebacker at the University of Tennessee and was the first pick by the Miami Dolphins in the 2003 NFL Draft.

• Unique tradition: Cornbread Festival on the last weekend of each April.

Source: historicsouthpittsburgtn.org

BEST KEPT SECRET

A Date With the Princess -- The Princess Theatre opened in 1924 but was closed in the early 1980s.

• After an 18-month renovation project was completed, it reopened in August 2011 and not only shows movies, but also hosts live music.

Source: historicsouthpittsburgtn.org

HOT MUSIC, COOL TREATS

The Fire on the Mountain Bluegrass Festival takes place on two days in September and features music, home-cooked and baked goods, barbecue and jam sessions around the campfire. The festival raises money for the South Pittsburg Mountain Volunteer Fire District.

• In December, the Christmas parade brings treats, Santa and money for the beset-decorated float.

Source: Southeast Tennessee Tourism Association

BEST THING TO DO:

Friday night lights

• Any plan to visit in the fall should include watching the high school football team playing at its Beene Stadium home.

• Most South Pittsburg businesses close up early to allow townsfolk the chance to pack the stands and watch the Pirates, one of the most storied football programs in state history.

• South Pittsburg is the only program in Tennessee to have played for a state championship in all six decades of the state’s playoff format, winning five.

Source: Times Free Press archives

FESTIVALS

Let it burn

• The Fire on the Mountain Bluegrass Festival takes place on two days in September and features music, home-cooked and baked goods, barbecue and jam sessions around the campfire.

• The festival raises money for the South Pittsburg Mountain Volunteer Fire District.

• In December, the Christmas Parade brings treats, Santa and money for the beset-decorated float.

Source: Southeast Tennessee Tourism Association