A warm sense of community, friendly competition and the sweet smell of cornbread are all set to fill Main Street soon as the South Carolina Cornbread Festival takes over the area.
Following a three-year hiatus, the festival will return to the North Main Street district at the end of this month with activities, competitions and tons of cornbread in hopes of bringing the North Columbia community together.
“The goal this year is to get as many people out of the house to have fun,” founder of the North Columbia Business Association Sabrina Odom said. “It’s more of a mental thing this year because people have been through so much, and we just want people to have fun and come out and meet other people just to relax.”
Odom said she hopes this year's festival will help rebuild community morale in the post-COVID-19 age, providing families with a new way to have fun and business owners with an opportunity to get back on their feet.
“That’s why we have all these different kinds of activities to attract everyone, because we want everyone to think of our festival as a big family reunion for the state,” Odom said.
Tickets to the event are $10 during the online presale or $15 the day of the event and include access to free cornbread samples, a children’s play area and live music. The festival will feature live performances from a wide array of bands, including Elliot & The Untouchables, Mac Arnold & Plate Full O'Blues, Latin Hustle, Caesar & Creole Soul and Precise Band.
Since entertainment and activities are included with price of admission, event organizers said they hope attendees will spend their money supporting the small businesses and local vendors in the area.
Dana Myers, the owner of Main Street Bakery & Gift Shop, is one of this year’s vendors on cornbread alley, the area of the festival dedicated to giving out complimentary cornbread samples. Her business has been in Columbia for nearly 15 years, and she said she looks forward to the effect of the festival on NOMA's reputation.
“Hopefully people see the area, love the area and maybe want to open a business here. It's all about economic growth and community,” Myers said.
In addition to the festival's economic impact, she hopes that it provides a space for community members to interact with each other more than they might be used to.
“I think the people on this side of town maybe have had a habit of keeping their head down working, going home and that's it," Myers said. "And I think they're trying to introduce something different.”
The event will also be marked with different competitions, including a cornbread eating contest, a cornbread cook-off featuring Columbia Mayor Daniel Rickenmann, a Little Miss Muffin Pageant and a cornhole competition between county and city officials.
The cornbread cook-off will take place on April 29 at the festival’s headquarters at 3730 North Main St. Suite D, where competitors can submit their entries between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Winners of the competition can win up to $200.
Two-time cook-off champion Tut Underwood took home the trophy at the most recent festival with his Mexican-inspired family recipe that includes cheese and onions. While he will be competing again this year, Underwood said he also looks forward to enjoying all of the event's other festivities.
“It's another chance for people to get out, and mill around, and see other people, and enjoy the weather and enjoy some food that maybe they don't eat every day,” Underwood said. “Although, I hope people eat cornbread regularly.”
The South Carolina Cornbread Festival will take place in front of the NOMA Community Garden at 2714 River Drive on April 30 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.