From collard greens to poke salat, several spring festivals in Alabama are showcases for an iconic food, often one that’s emblematic of its home.
Sausages introduced by immigrants who founded Elberta in the early 1900s are celebrated there with the German Sausage Festival in late March. A 140-year-old mill in Childersburg builds its late-April fun around the corn grits it produces.
From chocolate in Mobile to chicken wings in Vestavia Hills, food has a prominent place in festivals across the state in March, April, and May.
Collard Green Festival (Evergreen)
Evergreen is the official Collard Green Capital of Alabama, and the Evergreen-Conecuh Chamber of Commerce celebrates that status with a family-friendly festival, set for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Activities include a car show and two cook-off competitions: steaks (FMI flyer) and collard greens and cornbread (entry form). The festival will be held at the Evergreen Regional Airport (14134 Highway 84).
Chocolate Festival (Mobile)
The 13th Chocolate Festival offers all things chocolate, from confections to cupcakes and chocolate martinis. It is a benefit for Mobile’s Penelope House, which provides services to victims of domestic violence. Festival entertainment includes a DJ, children’s area, food trucks, and vendors. Entrants will compete for prizes in Project Yum Way, a showcase for chocolate-inspired fashions. The Chocolate Challenge (entry required) pits bakers in youth, adult, and professional categories. It’s set for 10 a.m.–3 p.m. at The Grounds on Cody Road.
German Sausage Festival (Elberta)
This huge festival (25,000 people expected; 6,000 sausages are ready to cook) held twice yearly by Elberta’s volunteer fire department as a fundraiser for the Baldwin County town. You’ll find entertainment for children and adults alike, a 5k race, and more than 200 arts and crafts booths. There’s non-German food, including hot dogs, barbecue, and red beans and rice. German-style offerings include stuffed cabbage, potato salad, and goulash. Insider’s tip: When ordering the festival’s signature food, “One” is both sausage and sauerkraut, and “Two” is without kraut. Follow your nose to the intersection of Main Street and U.S 98, across from the town hall. The fest runs from 8 a.m.–5 p.m.
Downtown Cajun Cookoff (Mobile)
Sponsored by the law firm Cunningham Bounds, the seventh cookoff benefits the Child Advocacy Center in Mobile. Restaurants and sponsors offer samples of Louisiana-style creole and Cajun favorites. Advance tickets ($10) are available at the Child Advocacy Center, Arrow Exterminators, Bebo’s Springhill Market and Hillcrest Market, and Olensky Brothers. Purchase online for $13 by March 24, or for $15 at the gate. Children under 6 are free. Set for 10 a.m.–2 p.m. at Cathedral Square. Don’t be surprised if you see someone in an alligator or crawfish costume dancing to the music.
Wing Ding Challenge (Vestavia Hills)
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is this year’s beneficiary of the annual fundraiser by Leadership Vestavia Hills (which has raised more than $100,000 for local charities). Teams compete for Best Wing prizes in this community gathering, set for 4 p.m.–7 p.m. The Wing Ding also features a children’s play area, musical performances–and all-you-can-eat wings. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the gate (or $5 with a canned good to donate to the LVH Hunger Project. Children 10 and under are free. Shuttle provided from off-site parking at the former Sprouts store, Southminster Presbyterian Church, West Elementary School, and First America Bank.
Kymulga Grits Festival (Childersburg)
Grits stone-ground at the 140-year-old Kymulga Mill off U.S. 280 in Talladega County are the stars of the festival held by the Childersburg Historical Preservation Commission. Sampling the highly-prized shrimp and grits is just the start; food options include hot dogs and other typical fair food, fried pork skins, and boiled peanuts. Corn on the cob and cornbread also are on the menu. Vendors will have arts, crafts, and preserved foods. Pony rides, gem mining, and a bouncy house will entertain the children, and bands will perform from a stage. The event is a fundraiser for the park, which also features a covered bridge. The fun starts at 9 a.m.
Poke Salat Festival (Arab)
Born of desperation and developed through trial and error, “poke salat” is made from pokeweed, which is abundant but poisonous. The less-deadly leaves are rendered edible by boiling then in several changes of water to leach out the toxins. Don’t be afraid to try a bite at the festival; it wouldn’t have lasted 39 years by killing its guests. Arab’s homage to poke salat was cooked up in the mid-1980s by a dinner group that called itself the “Liars Club.” Now in its 39th year, the festival is a showcase for downtown merchants in the north Alabama mountain town. It runs from 10 a.m.–1 p.m.