GREEN COVE SPRINGS – In its 16th year, the Soul Food Festival provided guests with non-stop musical entertainment and an array of home cooked food options guaranteed to fill up even the hungriest …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – In its 16th year, the Soul Food Festival provided guests with non-stop musical entertainment and an array of home cooked food options guaranteed to fill up even the hungriest of guests.
Food options include everything from garlic boiled crab to barbecued ribs and chicken, plus offerings like gumbo, gator tail, cooked greens and lemonade. In addition to food trucks, there were contests, including a sweet potato pie bake-off. In the true spirit of the festival, it is rare to spot a guest who isn’t holding some type of food.
One of the busiest locations at the festival was a lemonade stand operated by Fuzzy Mitchell of Green Cove Springs. Mitchell has been operating one of his two lemonade stands at the festival for about five years now, and attributes his success to a secret recipe provided to him by a distant relative, a lemonade man himself, who operates in Tampa.
“I’m from Green Cove Springs, born and raised,” Mitchell said. “My ex-brother-in-law, who is still a good friend, gave me the recipe when I bought my first cart from him.”
Activities ran throughout the day, including a much fuller schedule of children’s games and events, in addition to the annual softball tournament that runs throughout the duration of the festival.
The entertainment options vary throughout the day, but each year the organizers try to get a headline act who will get the crowd on their feet. This year’s singer was Tony Grant who is famous for singing with the 90s R&B group Az Yet and for appearing in multiple Tyler Perry films.
The driving force behind the festival each year is coordinator Felicia Hampshire, who makes an effort to get out into the community to promote the festival every chance she gets. The festival means a lot to her, as she was on the 2002 committee that planned the inaugural event.
“From the first year, in the backs of our minds, we never thought we would reach the capacity and crowds we are getting now,” Hampshire said.
Hampshire stays busy up until the day of the event, and then works hard to manage events and keep everything on schedule throughout the day. This year she was especially busy, leaving the festival briefly to visit her daughter, who was in labor at the hospital, and who eventually gave birth to Hampshire’s grandchild at about 3:30 that afternoon.
As soon as it was over, Hampshire began planning for next year’s event, which will most likely be bigger and even better. Her measure of success lies in the hands of the vendors, because at the end of the day everything is about the food.
“All the vendors said they did great and that they’ll be back next year,” Hampshire said.