Sep. 1—While COVID-19 may have made for a down year elsewhere, it's been a big, big year for the mighty sweet potato.
Last September's Sweet Tater Festival at Smith Lake Park was one of the few community events in 2020 to escape COVID-19 cancelation. Then in April of this year, a group of ambitious students (with a little home-grown legislative pull) managed to elevate the orange tuber to top status as the official Alabama State Vegetable.
For an encore, then, the Sweet Tater Festival is heading back to the park this Sunday to mark another big milestone: It's the 25th anniversary of the annual Labor Day weekend event, which first started life as a small, offbeat get-together out at Crane Hill's Dowling Memorial Park.
Now operated by the Cullman County park system, the Sweet Tater fest will be back this year as a two-day event (after cutting things short with a one-day outing last year). There's a full slate of orange-hued fun on tap, with live entertainment, tons of games and activities, food trucks, arts and crafts vendors — and, of course, the taters themselves, lined up by the bushel from local growers and ready to take (and maybe bake) back home.
North Alabama homeschool teacher Kristen Smith and her troop of intrepid students led the charge, over the past two years, to get the sweet potato into the annals of Alabama history as the state's official veggie. Visiting the Cullman County Agriplex back in May, Smith told The Times that she totally plans on being in the middle of all the action for this year's fest, with county parks director Doug Davenport confirming she and her students will likely have a special role to play.
Wanna find out what that is (or maybe just score a sweet, sweet, Sweet Tater Festival 25th-year T-shirt)? It's as easy as packing a lawn chair and showing up at Smith Lake Park this weekend, with a single $5 entry fee covering attendance for both festival days. The fest kicks off on Sunday, Sept. 5 with gates open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., and continues on Monday (that's Labor Day), running from 9 a.m. through 4 p.m.