People in the southern United States, the Caribbean islands and other parts of the world often grow okra on their farms and in their gardens. Okra plants produce edible seeds pods that can be cooked and served in a variety of ways. Okra festivals celebrate the crop and provide a range of entertainment and enjoyable activities.
Such festivals often feature live music as well as arts and crafts shows, among other events. "The Post and Courier" indicates that the town of Irmo's okra festival features eating contests, music, dancing and a parade. The festival in Pritchett involves a parade, a horseshoe tournament, music and a cooking contest, according to the "Longview News-Journal." St. Martinville's okra festival at the African-American Museum also holds a cooking contest, according to St. Martin Parish's website. Some of the festivals offer child-oriented activities as well, like face painting.
As would be expected, the most common items available at okra festivals are foods made with okra. These include gumbo, stew and other types of soup. At Burkville's yearly okra festival, vendors sell fresh okra and other foods, according to the Alabama Tourism Department. Attendees can also find non-okra foods typical of other festivals, such as hot dogs, soda and sandwiches.
Okra festivals are scattered across the southeastern U.S. Some cities host them, others occur in small towns. These festivals happen in states such as Alabama, South Carolina and even as far west as Texas. A few promote themselves as gumbo festivals, which focus on a certain type of okra-based soup, such as those in Chackbay and Bridge City, Louisiana. Many people in other parts of the United States remain unfamiliar with okra, so festivals north of the Carolinas prove quite scarce.
Some okra festivals allow visitors to attend for free, while others charge a small admission fee for each person. Ask about discounted rates or free admission for children and seniors. Either way, bring money to purchase food, drinks and other items. Unlike with some types of festivals and holiday events, organizers don't typically schedule okra festivities at any one time of day. Some festivals hold all events in the morning or afternoon, while others extend into the night.
- "Encarta Encyclopedia Standard"; Okra; Microsoft; 2004
- Louisiana Travel: Gumbo Festivals a Staple of Louisiana Events
- "The Post and Courier"; Festival to Celebrate Misunderstood Pod; Erin McClam; September 2007
- St. Martin Parish, Louisiana: Calendar of Events
- "Longview News-Journal"; Okra Festival Set For Saturday; Robyn Claridy; August 2010
- Alabama Tourism Department: Annual Okra Festival
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