Carroll County’s “Harvest Festival” Saturday, comprised of the Historic Hillsville Chili Shootout and the County Pumpkin Festival, proved the sum can be greater than the parts as a robust crowd turned out to participate in a day of varied activities.
“I think it’s absolutely a great thing. We’re serving the ages from zero to ninety-nine. You have the kids having fun, younger adults and older adults have something to do with the younger enjoying corn hole and the older enjoying the Bluegrass. The famous food trucks with The Chicken Bus here along with your typical vendors,” said Festival Organizer/Tourism Relations Manager for Carroll Amanda Parris. “We’re also partnered with the Hillsville Farmers Market so we have market vendors also. So I think we are capturing what we are known for here in Carroll County, which is agriculture.”
She pointed out Carroll is the largest pumpkin producer in Virginia and leads the nation. She said initially five acres locally were dedicated to commercial pumpkin production and this has increased to 1,000 acres. Parris praised the work of The Southwest Virginia Farmers Market’s Kevin Semones for helping to promote this with local pumpkins being featured on tables from the Governor’s Mansion to the White House. She said the largest local producer of pumpkins, the Travis Marshall Farm, donated pumpkins for the Festival.
“It’s absolutely key to have the community buy-in to make this happen. It takes a slew of volunteers including our Carroll County Middle School FFA, Farm Bureau Chapter, the Historical Society, The Carroll County High School volleyball team, the Carter Home Foundation, the Friends of Hillsville; They all partnered with us as well as the local businesses. Guynn Furniture for instance allowed us to do something we didn’t know if we could pull off. That is, have food vendors set up within some VDOT constraints,” said Parris.
“Local businesses have really stepped up. The combination of the town and the county working together has been phenomenal,” said Parris. “We meshed together and pulled everything together as a team and that is monumental from what it has been in the past. We’re excited.”
Chili Shootout Organizers Jennifer Sowers and Ammie Shupe agreed the combination of the Shootout and the Festival worked well. Sowers said the weather also helped the inaugural effort with its light breezes and overcast skies.
“One of the other things we are doing is trying to build up the Shootout’s cornhole tournament. We have a maximum of 40 teams,” said Sowers. “I think we have 30 teams registered this year and we want to get the word out more. We think it is a natural complement to the chili (shootout),” said Sowers.
Local musician Will Jones served as the guest judge for the Shootout this year instead of Southern Justice reality television personality Joshua “Hoppy” Hopkins. Jones was also the featured performer capping off the Shootout, appearing with The Will Jones Band. Sowers said they look to continue to “grow” both events through cooperation. “It’s community-involved, it gets people out to enjoy the Town. The Town is beautiful today.”
This season’s informal competition (which wasn’t for International Chili Society points) marked the end of ICS professional Ron Keys’ winning streak from the previous two shootouts. Linda Otey took top honors from the judges. Lindsey Utt (“Perpetual Puckers”) was second and Bryan Lawson of Nightwatch Haunt finished third.
In fourth place was the “Spicy Saucy Sassy” team. Fifth place hoors were shared by Eric Shupe of “Fire In The Hole”; Theresa Catron of “Howlett St. Outlaws” and Isacc Murrell of “GoT Chili.” In sixth was Kathy Jennings’ “Sister Act team. Fittingly, seven were named to seventh place. They are Bob Fleicher (El Robo Grande); Matt Brook (Mason Jar); Gerald Goad (Carroll County 175); Joy Key (Happy Endings); Ron Key (Death Row) and Billy Semone who won two seventh-place awards, one for red chili and one for chili verde.
Spicy Saucy Sassy was first in the people’s choice competition with Simone finishing second. Perpetual Puckers was third with Fire In The Hole placing fourth. Ron Keys finished fifth with the Howlett Street Outlaws sixth and Linda Otey seventh.
The husband and wife team of Ron and Joy Keys grabbed top honors in the salsa competition with Joy finishing first and Ron second. Shupe was third and in fourth was Joy Edwards and Larry Horton (Team Bullseye). Anita Gray was first in the cornbread competition.
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.