Hundreds attend Great River Food Festival Saturday

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 19, 2001

It was barely lunchtime on Saturday, but already hundreds of people had taken part in the first Great River Road Food Festival.

&uot;We had more than 300 people last night,&uot;&160;said Chef Regina Charboneau, one of the event’s organizers, referring to the &uot;Taste of the River & Blues&uot; dinner and music event.

&uot;We’ve sold at least 100 plate lunches, and as of the second (cooking) demonstration we had 50 people participating,&uot;&160;said Charboneau, who plans to make the festival an annual event. &uot;It’s gone very well.&uot;

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Those attending Friday night’s event, held at the City Auditorium, got to sample food prepared by about 25 restaurants and chefs. Dishes ranged from sea bass tacos to mango salsa, Charboneau said.

&uot;Everybody really outdid themselves,&uot;&160;Charboneau said.

&uot;I thought it was wonderful,&uot;&160;said James Fox-Smith, editor of Country Road magazine, who attended Friday and Saturday’s events. &uot;It was lovely to see the elements that make Mississippi and Louisiana food great, mixed with elements brought into the area from other places.&uot;

Then from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, several free cooking demonstrations were held at Main Street Marketplace by local and regional chefs and other food experts. Topics included cooking with green tomatoes, by Charboneau; making summer fruit salsa, by Michael Williams; canning fruits and vegetables, by Thelma Barnes; smoking and grilling foods, by Archie Willett; and making ice cream, by Juanita Love.

Meanwhile, vendors selling everything from goat cheese to ice cream to crafts were on hand. And early Saturday afternoon, Cover-to-Cover Books sponsored a booksigning by Holly B. Clegg, author of the Trim & Terrific cookbook series.

Those who brought their appetites also stood in line for &uot;soul food&uot;&160;plate lunches featuring fried chicken, pork chops, vegetables and other side dishes. Lunches were prepared by the Sanders sisters, Ella Henderson, Jessie Sanders and Mabel Redd.

Deborah Purviance of Port Gibson said she heard about the event through the newspaper, on the Internet and through a regional magazine.

&uot;I&160;think it’s great,&uot; said Purviance, who was accompanied by her daughter, Martha. &uot;Actually, I had a double motivation for coming.

&uot;I’m married to a chef wannabe, so I&160;figured I&160;could learn some ways to help him out and maybe buy a cookbook,&uot; she said. &uot;And I&160;want my daughter to be exposed to things like this. She didn’t know what a food festival was before.&uot;

&uot;We’ve enjoyed looking at the baking goods they have for sale, as well as the crafts,&uot; said Kris Hobbs of Jackson, who attended Saturday’s events with her mother, Beatrice Hobbs of Vidalia. Later, they planned to attend some of the cooking demonstrations.

Vendors at the festival said many people had already come by their booths as of 12:30 p.m. Saturday. In addition to selling their wares, vendors also took part in the weekend’s events themselves.

Rosemary Hall listened to a demonstration on canning foods while manning the Cover-to-Cover cookbook booth with her husband, bookstore owner Charles Hall. &uot;They’ve been great so far,&uot;&160;Rosemary Hall said.

And the festival is also impacting the local economy, Charboneau said. For example, 15 percent of those who attended the &uot;Taste of the River & Blues&uot; event on Friday were from out of town.

As a result, many bed-and-breakfasts, antebellum houses and local restaurants are completely booked this weekend, she said. &uot;And these are people who are shopping on Main Street, too,&uot;&160;Charboneau added. &uot;So almost everyone’s feeling the economic impact of this.&uot;

The Main Street Marketplace event, &uot;Tables Along the River,&uot; will continue today from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Demonstrations will include a 1:15 p.m. class on making summer salads, by Williams; and a 2:15 p.m. class on making vegetable pizza, by Lanny Brasher.

This weekend’s events also included a lunch at The Castle at Dunleith with John Martin Terranova, which was held Saturday.

The &uot;Great Chefs in Great Houses&uot; event, which featured guest chefs preparing dinner at the antebellum houses D’Evereux, Dunleith Plantation and Monmouth Plantation, was scheduled for Saturday night.

Today, Biscuits and Blues Restaurant will hold a blues brunch at 11 a.m. The cost will be $10 per person, which includes food and music.