Sweet Potato Festival raises funds for youth

Published 4:51 pm Monday, November 3, 2008

Another gorgeous autumn day in south Alabama brought the latest installment of the Sweet Potato Festival. Sponsored annually by the Butler County Optimist Club, last Saturday’s event mixed good southern cooking with a pageant featuring preschoolers to senior citizens, all dressed to the nines and hoping to be named Sweet Potato Festival King or Queen for their division.

With the beautiful, mild weather, organizers decided to move the pageant to the outdoor stage.

Here, little girls decked out in frilly outfits from head to toe and little boys in their best Sunday suits shyly modeled their attire early Saturday afternoon.

Email newsletter signup

The event also featured vendors’ booths inside the exhibit hall offering everything from T-shirts and hair accessories to hand-painted picture frames, along with home-canned jams, jellies and more.

Optimist Willie Mae Robinson manned a table offering some of her homegrown edibles, an abundance of baked goods by other members and several silent auction items.

Robinson’s reputation for award-winning home-canned foods preceded her.

“I ran out of my chow-chow way too early,” Robinson said with a smile.

Attendee Frank Hickman couldn’t resist purchasing a hand-painted Alabama sign to add to his Crimson Tide collection.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Sweet Potato Festival without plenty of the tasty orange vegetable on hand. Optimists Clara Hudson and Gracie Perdue manned a table filled with sweet potato pies, muffins, bread and more offered for sale at the event.

Outside, there were more sweet potato dishes on sale, along with hot fish sandwiches prepared on the spot.

“Those sandwiches are something else,” pronounced Ada Lee Williams, who served as one of the pageant judges.

“They’ve got a lady from Hayneville who surely is a good cook.”

Following the pageant festivities, various praise dance and vocal groups from the area were scheduled to perform in the exhibit hall.

Funds raised by the annual event go to support youth in the community including the annual Optimist Club Oratorical Contest open to the county’s high school students; sponsorship of student tickets for Greenville Area Arts Council performances and the club’s Annual Respect for Law Night.

The event offers an evening of food, entertainment and a chance to meet and greet area law enforcement officials.

“We’ve had a beautiful day,” Hudson said.

“We appreciate everyone who has supported this event.”