‘Cornerstone of Southern Cuisine’ Makes Big Financial Impact in Marion County
Spring breeze wafting through the town. Families chatting with friends. Artists strumming their instruments. Children dancing up and down the streets. And, of course, the tantalizing smell of award-winning cornbreads baking and frying. The yearly National Cornbread Festival is always a hit in South Pittsburg!
For more than 20 years, the citizens of this charming Marion County town have come together to host the National Cornbread Festival, a weekend-long celebration of its community, local businesses and, of course, cornbread. Often considered the cornerstone of Southern cuisine, cornbread became the figurative foundation for this historic town by the Sequatchie Valley, too.
Tens of thousands of residents and guests alike flock to South Pittsburg for a taste of delicious, homemade cornbread recipes at the famed Cornbread Alley and to tour the world-renowned Lodge Cast Iron Manufacturing foundry. Festival activities include the National Lodge Cast Iron Cornbread Cook-off, the Cornbread 5K Race, a classic car cruise-in and an exhilarating cornbread eating contest. All this happens as local musicians and artists perform and sell their hand-crafted goods, and live music takes place at multiple stages.
“The National Cornbread Festival is not just any town celebration,” says Mayor David Jackson. “It is an institution! For 23 years and counting, we have welcomed thousands of visitors from across the southeast to party and eat cornbread. This year was no exception.”
Bringing more than 27,000 festival-goers to Marion County during April 2019 alone, the National Cornbread Festival is the toast of the region. So much so that it is hard to imagine, just a couple of decades ago, tourists would simply blow by without stopping and exploring scenic South Pittsburg. Retail sales were dwindling, and the town was growing smaller. A group of civic-minded local leaders and citizens got together in 1996 to talk about the long-term future of their town. A food-oriented festival was the winning idea. In addition to the cornbread celebrations, the festival would highlight local maker of world-class cast iron cookware, Lodge Manufacturing.
Since that first festival over 20 years ago, the National Cornbread Festival has made incredible profits that they have then given back to the community. To put an exact number to it, the festival has made $1,072,769 in direct donations since its start to local volunteer groups and special projects in and around South Pittsburg!
The economic impact of tourism dollars to the county’s businesses is not to be forgotten. Across the region, hotels fill up, restaurants are packed, gas stations are busy all day and cash registers ring in retail stores before, during and after the festival.
“It is our hope and dream that the festival attendees will come back… not just once a year, but multiple times a year. Marion County has so very much to offer. These visitors might just want to move here permanently,” says Beth Duggar, president of the National Cornbread Festival.
For more information and updates on the next National Cornbread Festival, visit https://nationalcornbread.com/.