April 14, 2010 9:39:00 AM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
There''s just something about festival food. Mingling aromas, the hiss of a hot grill, open air, the just-cooked freshness. On Saturday, the Cotton District Arts Festival''s Taste of Starkville competition elevates festival fare to the next level.
The city''s restaurants vie in friendly competition for awards and bragging rights, and festival-goers will reap the eats during the 15th annual festival from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Taste of Starkville allows local restaurants to showcase their chosen specialty and go all out to impress the taste buds of seven judges. At the end of the day, the panel will announce winners in categories including Best in Show, as well as Most Likely for Seconds, Best on a Hot Day and more.
Tasha Hill, chair of the 2010 Taste of Starkville, stated, "Last year was a huge success, and we''re expecting the same this year. As of now we have 22 wonderful food vendors ready to participate."
Hill is justifiably excited about the expanding palate of this year''s competition. With Lebanese cuisine, sushi and Mexican fried bread bowl vendors among new offerings, the array becomes even more multi-cultural.
"And that''s great, because that''s what Starkville itself reflects, as well," Hill said.
On the grill
The new food vendors join tried-and-true fan favorites, like Bin 612, Bulldog Deli, Dave''s Dark Horse Tavern, Harvey''s, McAlister''s, Sweet Pepper''s, The Little Dooey, The Veranda and many more.
Chefs and cooking teams are busy making final preparations for Saturday.
Assistant general manager Bryan Elmore of Harvey''s shared, "We''ll do beef tenderloin and chicken kabobs. We go out there with a mesquite wood-burning grill; the wood comes out of Texas. Our head chef, Carnell McGee, and assistant chef, Leon Jefferson, put on a little show at our grill."
The pace gets hectic, especially near lunch time.
"It''s an atmosphere that generally builds through the morning and by, say, noon, it''s just overrun with people who come out to enjoy not only the food, but the entertainment and crafts," said Bart Wood, CEO of The Little Dooey Inc., which will sell its award-winning barbecue, crawfish and sausage kolaches ("like a big sausage pig in a blanket"). "It''s a real family-friendly environment and well worth getting out for."
On your mark
For thrills and spills, don''t miss the Server Race.
Balancing water-filled glasses on a tray, servers from local restaurants tackle a "wacky, fun obstacle course." The race is set for 2 p.m. near St. Joseph''s Catholic Church at 607 University Dr.
"There''s a traveling trophy, just like for the Egg Bowl," laughed Hill. "Harvey''s won it last year, so they''ll be competing to hold on to their title and keep the trophy."
The Cotton District Arts Festival offers juried art, craft vendors, music and more. Stop by the Artisans'' Village, Children''s Village, Kiwanis'' International Village, Celtic Village, Writers'' Village and Canus Major Village. A 5K race begins at 8 a.m.; arts and craft vendors will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Choral and theatrical performances, plus live music ranging from rock to bluegrass, will unfold on multiple stages on University Drive and nearby streets.
Sponsored by the Starkville Area Arts Council, the festival prides itself on having "something for everyone." Support also comes from the City of Starkville, the Greater Starkville Development Partnership and the Mississippi Arts Commission.
For more information, visit www.starkvillearts.org, or contact the SAAC at 662-324-3080.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.