June 17, 2014

25th Annual PurpleHull Pea Festival & World Championship Rotary Tiller Race

There are festivals for large things in Arkansas, like watermelons. There are festivals for medium-sized things like peaches and apples and even cornbread. But, the one festival held the furthest south in our state happens to celebrate the smallest Arkansas food product -- the tiny PurpleHull pea.

Only in Arkansas - PurpleHull Pea Festival

On June 28th, the residents of the small town of Emerson will once again welcome the masses to town for the 25th Annual Emerson PurpleHull Pea Festival and World Championship Rotary Tiller Races.  And if you’re looking for a hotter festival to attend, you’ll have a hard time finding one.  Not only does the festival invariably take place during one of the most blistering hot weekends of the year — but it really steams and bubbles with excitement… just like a good pot of peas on the stove.
That’s OK, though.  There are so many ways to cool off.

Only in Arkansas - Purple Hull Pea Festival

For one, the annual Pea Feast is held in the local school cafeteria, where diners can splurge on PurpleHull peas, cornbread, stewed tomatoes, onions, peppers and peach cobbler all served with sweet tea while watching the finals of the Great PurpleHull Pea and Cornbread Cookoff (there’s also a peach cobbler cookoff, too) and the World Cup PurpleHull Pea Shelling Competition, all in air conditioned splendor.

Cooling Off at the PurpleHull Pea Festival

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All Aboard for a Great Arkansas Weekend

For two, there are popsicle vendors and homemade ice cream offered outside, especially for folks planning to catch the world renown Million Tiller Parade.

And for three, veterans of this grand event know to bring a sunshade (and they’ll often share) at the World Championship Rotary Tiller Races — which are a sight to behold.

If that’s not enough for you, stick around for the evening for a youth talent contest, the annual fireworks show and the Pea-Stompin’ Dance.  So much to do, see and experience just six miles north of the Louisiana border.  For more information, check out the festival website or Facebook — and to revisit my 2012 experience, check out this entry at Tie Dye Travels.

Kat Robinson

Kat Robinson is a vetted food and travel journalist who's spent 24 years working in radio, television, print and the Internet.  She's a passionate foodways enthusiast with three books (Arkansas Pie: A Delicious Slice of the Natural State, Classic Eateries of the Ozarks and Arkansas River Valley, and Classic Eateries of the Arkansas Delta) to her name. You can read more on her blog tiedyetravels.com.