Musical prodigy Emi Sunshine heading International Cowpea Festival

ZZ Emi Sunshine

Emi Sunshine/photo courtesy of Facebook

CHARLESTON, Tenn. (press release)—Musical prodigy Emi Sunshine will headline the fourth annual International Cowpea Festival and Cook-off presented by Bush Brothers & Company of Dandridge Sept. 12 in the Charleston Park.

Whether she is performing on the Today show, the Grand Ole Opry or Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, Emi Sunshine, an 11-year-old from Madisonville, Tenn., is fearless, confident and firm in her musical direction. Growing up, her parents filled their house with music by Buddy Miller, John and June Carter Cash and Emmylou Harris. Those influences served as a foundation on which Emi built her own sound. She has captured the nation’s attention as a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist steeped in Appalachian music.

Emi Sunshine will take the stage 6:30 p.m. for this free concert. Festival goers should bring chairs, plan to stay all day to enjoy activities and great festival food from more than a dozen food vendors.

The festival kicks off at 10 a.m. with activities throughout the day. Leading up to Emi Sunshine, live music begins at noon with Rockin’ Rangers from Red Clay, followed by Stormy & Adrian, Rhinestones & Cowboys and The Holloway Sisters and Outta the Blue. The opening band, Cash Only, plays at 5 p.m.

cowpea festivalThe Whirlpool Cowpea Cook-off features professional chefs preparing recipes using a variety of cowpeas from Bush Brothers. Whirlpool brings five gas ranges for on-site cooking demonstrations in the park. Festival goers who purchase a $5 souvenir spoon can taste the culinary creations and vote for their favorite. Tasting will take place 2–5 p.m.

An Amateur Cook-off will feature student chefs from high schools in Bradley and McMinn counties and will be judged by a panel at 11:30 a.m.

The Museum Center at Five Points will host a cooking demonstration 6 p.m. Sept. 10. The presentation will feature two-time Cowpea Crowd Pick Chef Richmond Flowers offering some of his favorite Cowpea Creations.

In addition to music throughout the day and the Cowpea Cook-off, the festival will feature storytelling, character greetings and a family fun field with games and air toys. A marketplace will offer handmade arts and crafts, fresh produce and booths featuring festival sponsors and heritage information telling Charleston’s nationally significant history. A character greeting will feature the “Princess and the Cowpea” for photo opportunities. Food vendors will have popular festival food favorites available for purchase.

This “harvest festival with the funny name” is rooted in the area’s authentic agricultural heritage. Charleston was once known as the cowpea capital of the United States because of the large amount of peas grown in the area and shipped to markets far and away. “Cowpea” is the general name for the crowder pea, black-eyed pea, cream pea, silver-hull and other field pea varieties known as vigna unguiculata.

Any proceeds from the event will go toward the operations of the Hiwassee River Heritage Center, which opened in May 2013 and is located on Highway 11 in Charleston.

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