published Friday, September 14th, 2012

Annexation, Cowpea Festival on tap for Charleston

Charleston's proposed annexation plans include the Maplecrest subdivision, located southwest of the city center.
Charleston's proposed annexation plans include the Maplecrest subdivision, located southwest of the city center.
Photo by Paul Leach.

IF YOU GO

What: International Cowpea Festival and Cookoff

Where: Charleston Park on Worth Street, Charleston, Tenn.

When: Opens at 10 a.m.; headliner Suzy Bogguss goes on at 7 p.m. Saturday

Admission: Free

Information: Go to www.cowpeafestival.com or contact the Bradley/Cleveland Chamber of Commerce at 423-472-6587

Source: Bradley/Cleveland Chamber of Commerce

CHARLESTON, Tenn. -- Officials say that Charleston should move forward with growth plans as the city prepares for what it hopes is a definitive agricultural festival.

On Tuesday evening, the city planning board recommended that Charleston pursue annexation plans that would incorporate 270 Bradley County residents just west of Charleston Elementary School on the south end of town.

Charleston officials must address a few technical details before declaring public hearing dates regarding the proposed annexation, said Mayor Walter Goode. City leaders will review possible public hearing dates Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the municipal building.

Garbage service will be an immediate benefit to the incorporated residents, Goode said previously. He recommended that the city's newest citizens be allowed to decide whether they want street lighting.

The newly incorporated residents will increase the city's population to almost 1,000 people, a benchmark for qualifying for more federal grants, which city officials say is the biggest benefit of the proposed annexation.

The proposal dovetails with a number of other initiatives, including revitalization plans that are already in the works for the city's park and water tower.

For law enforcement, road safety initiatives have taken the forefront. In the wake of on-site safety inspections performed by a special Tennessee Highway Patrol unit last month, commercial truckers have done a better job of obeying speed limits and other rules of the road, said Police Chief Hank Hayden. Local commercial transporters also have been responsive to the issue, he said.

The Charleston-Calhoun-Hiwassee Historical Society is pushing for the city to also be a tourist destination and has focused recent efforts on launching the inaugural International Cowpea Festival.

The festival serves as a tribute to Charleston's role as the cowpea capital of the world in the 19th century, said society members. Black-eyed peas and crowder peas are part of the cowpea -- or field pea -- family.

The International Cowpea Festival starts at 10 a.m. Saturday in Charleston Park and will feature cookoffs, tastings and musical entertainment, with Grammy Award-winning artist Suzy Bogguss headlining at 7 p.m.

Whirlpool, which is providing five gas ranges for the festival, has donated one of the ranges to be given away as a grand door prize, said event co-chairwoman Melissa Woody, the vice president of the visitor and convention bureau for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.

At least 20 craft vendors and a dozen food vendors have confirmed they will attend the festival, said event co-chairwoman Darlene Goins.

"We've been working hard to make this something that everyone will remember," said Woody, who reported that the festival was totally funded through sponsorships.

Festival parking fees and merchandising dollars will go toward refurbishing the historical society's Hiwassee Heritage Center, which is expected to open next year, officials said.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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