IF YOU GO
■ What: National Cornbread Festival.
■ When: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, April 26, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, April 27 (all times Central).
■ Where: 221 S. Cedar Ave., South Pittsburg, Tenn. (parking instructions will be posted on signs along Highway 72).
■ Admission: $5 per day; free for preschoolers.
■ Phone: 423-837-0022.
■ Website: www.nationalcornbread.com.
Get your mouth set. South Pittsburg, Tenn.'s annual salute to a Southern staple, the National Cornbread Festival, returns this weekend.
The downtown district will be buzzing with activity: nonstop entertainment on four stages, all the cornbread and other festival foods you can eat, a juried arts and crafts exhibit, a children's zone, carnival, car show and tours of historic homes.
Officially, the festival runs all day Saturday and Sunday, April 26-27. But like the best cornbread, a festival benefits from preheating. So opening ceremonies will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, April 25. A street dance, featuring The Malemen Band, will follow from 7 to 11 p.m., with a break at 9 a.m. for a fireworks display. (Keep in mind that all times are Central.)
Here are five events to make sure you put on your plate:
■ National Cornbread Cook-Off: Ten finalists will vie for honors. The closest competitor is Betty Cariaco of Townsend, Tenn. Two are coming from Texas and one each from Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, New York, North Carolina and Wisconsin. They'll be introduced at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, then heats start at 1 and 3 p.m., with a winner announced at 5 p.m. Heavy is the head that wears the crown -- it's made of an actual cast-iron skillet.
■ Cornbread Alley: Maybe you expect your cornbread to look a certain way. You'll need to toss those notions aside in Cornbread Alley. Nine community groups will serve up sweet and savory samples of their out-of-the-box creations, such as banana cornbread puffs and buffalo chicken cornbread. You get to taste all nine for $4.
■ Foundry tours: Lodge Manufacturing opens its doors to the public just once a year, during the National Cornbread Festival. Visitors get to walk through the foundry to see how the company's cast-iron cookware is made. Tours are offered 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
■ Car show: This nod to nostalgia will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Dixie Freeze, 200 Elm Ave. Music from the 1950s, '60s and '70s will play. Drivers can cruise in as early as 10 a.m. for all-day parking. Call 423-837-6423 for more information.
■ Concerts: A heaping helping of music is on the agenda, but the big names play Sunday: Rhonda Vincent and the Rage at 1 p.m. and Marty Raybon, formerly of the band Shenandoah, at 3:30 p.m.