Blue skies and a slight chill in the air welcomed visitors to King Central Park on Saturday.
“Chicken stew weather. That’s what it is,” said Stokes Arts Council Executive Director Eddy McGee with a smile.
And chicken stew was exactly what brought folks out to the park throughout the day. The Arts Council hosted its first World Championship Chicken Stew, which featured a chicken stew cooking competition, live music, and art and craft vendors.
Organizers estimate close to 1,000 people attended the free inaugural event, which lasted from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Several of the chicken stew vendors sold out of food, with the others nearing the bottom of their pots.
“Every response was that it needs to be an annual event, with most saying that it has the potential to be the biggest one day event in Stokes County,” said McGee afterward.
Attendees had the opportunity to taste and buy chicken stew from 12 school and nonprofit organizations, who competed for cash prizes, ribbons, and bragging rights. The People’s Choice Award was given to Chestnut Grove Ruritan Club, which also won the Grand Champion award from the judging panel. Second place went to American Legion Post 290 Ladies Auxiliary and third place to King Masonic Lodge.
But even those who did not win bragging rights were grateful for the opportunity to participate and raise some funds through chicken stew sales. Shannon Boles, principal of Poplar Springs Elementary School, said funds raised by the school’s chicken stew crew would go to pay for instructional supplies for the school.
“I think it’s been wonderful,” said Boles of the event.
Jeannie Harris of Walnut Cove Rotary said, “It’s been great … For the first year it’s turned out very well.”
McGee said the event went off without a hitch. “The response has been fabulous,” he remarked.
The event was sponsored by the Stokes County Arts Council, Flow Automotive, Tuttle’s Body Shop and Stokes Economic Development.
The musical lineup at the amphitheatre included Blues Creek, Tyler Nail and Friends, the Stokes Tadpoles, One String Over and So Glad.
McGee explained prior to the event: “It was the desire of our organization to create an event to celebrate one of Stokes County’s most well-known traditions, that being the art of making chicken stew. When people think of barbecue, they think of Lexington, and when people think of chicken stew, they think of Stokes County, so we thought it was time to take this tradition to another level.”
Harris of Walnut Cove Rotary noted that people are very serious about their chicken stew recipes in Stokes County.
“And people use it as a fellowship. It’s fun, one of those things that brings people together,” she said.