UPDATE: The National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg is closed early on Sunday due to the threat of severe weather.

PREVIOUS STORY: This weekend marks the 21st annual National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg. This festival is more than just an excuse to eat as many kinds of cornbread as you can, it’s a way South Pittsburg helps keep their community running.

According to Beth Duggar, the festival committee president, net proceeds from the Cornbread Festival goes to the volunteer groups that make it all happen and get reinvested in the community. A 7-member volunteer board and 32 volunteer committee chairs plan the events and coordinate all the volunteers.

Dale Woodfin, a chairperson for the festival's marketing committee, said this year, 1,000 volunteers signed up to help out. 

"We've got a community that is actually growing a little bit because of this, and it's nice. It's a wonderful small town and it puts us on the map," said Woodfin. "We started with about 3,000 people, so we've grown and it is phenomenal to think about. I think it's the quality of the festival that makes it so good."

Volunteer and South Pittsburg High School teacher, Tim Adams, said being a part of the festival is a win-win situation for everyone, especially the city's youth. 

 "It's a unique situation where they can help their hometown and see a lot of things going on, and hopefully you know take this one day and become an adult volunteer and help with the festival and keep this thing running," said Adams. "Makes you feel pretty good to know that you still have communities that care about the community, and you still have community leaders that take initiative to get something like this going and not only do something good for the community, but for the schools."

The festival benefits South Pittsburg along with Marion County and the surrounding areas. Over the last two decades, almost $1.75 million dollars has been donated back. When someone pays the $7 entry fee, South Pittsburg Elementary students get a percentage as they volunteer at the gate. This allows for the purchase of school supplies, books and athletic equipment.

Proceeds over the past 2 decades have gone to these project, among others:

  • American Legion restoration 
  • Renovation of the Princess Theatre
  • Equipment for the South Pittsburg Police Department
  • Local churches 
  • Boy Scouts & Girl Scouts
  • Walking track
  • Marion County High School Baseball team
  • South Pittsburg & Whitwell High School Interact Clubs
  • Bridgeport Elementary School
  • Streetscaping
  • Civic groups
  • Food and various vendors

Duggar says, “Many festival attendees come back to shop and spend money in South Pittsburg and Marion County weeks and months after the festival. It opens the eyes of people to see what else Marion County has to offer.”

In 2016, a big concern was parking. Due to having so many visitors, traffic got backed up and many people were not able to even attend the festival. This year, officials say they have addressed these concerns with twice as many shuttles along with buses to drop people off at the gates. Signage will be clearly pointing to the best parking available. Tennessee Highway Patrol and additional law enforcement has been called in to make sure that everything moves smoothly. 

Friday, April 28

  • 6:00 p.m. – Opening Ceremonies
  • 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. – Street Dance
  • 10:00 p.m. – Fireworks Display

Saturday, April 29

  • 5K Run/Walk Registration will begin at: 6:30 a.m. CDT
  • 8:00 a.m. – 5K Run/Walk
  • 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. – Festival Hours
  • 9:30 a.m. – 5K Race Results and Awards (Tower Community Bank Stage)
  • 9:15 a.m. & 10:30 a.m. – 4-H Cornbread Cook-Off Heats (2nd Street Cook-Off Stage)
  • 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. – Bluegrass, Old Time, Traditional Jamming Tent
  • 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. – Tours of Historic Neighborhoods (sign up @ Light #3)
  • 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. – Classic Car Cruise-in at the Dixie Freeze
  • 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. – Lodge Foundry Plant Tours
  • 12:00 p.m. – 4-H Cook-Off Winners Announced (First Volunteer Stage)
  • 1:00 p.m. – National Championship Cook-Off Heat (Cook-Off Stage)
  • 1:30 p.m. – 2017 Miss National Cornbread Festival Contest Winners Introduced (First Volunteer Stage)
  • 3:00 p.m. – National Championship Cook-Off Heat (Cook-Off Stage)
  • 5:00 p.m. – National Cornbread Festival Cook-Off Winners Announced (First Volunteer Stage)
  • 6:00 p.m. – Keith Anderson (First Volunteer Stage)

Sunday, April 30

  • 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. – Rotary Club Pancake Breakfast for Marion County Children’s Fund (2nd Street Cook-Off Stage)
  • 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. – Community Worship Service (Tower Community Bank Stage)
  • 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. – Festival Hours
  • 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. – Tours of Historic Neighborhoods (sign up @ Light #3)
  • 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. – Lodge Foundry Plant Tours
  • 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. – Bluegrass, Old Time, Traditional Jamming Tent
  • 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. – Lodge Cast Iron 101 –  Cooking & Caring for Cast Iron Cookware (Cook-Off Tent)