The History of the World Grits Festival
In 1985, the store manager of the St. George S.C. Piggly Wiggly was giving a broker of a large grits company an order. The broker made a remark that his company sure shipped a lot of grits into St. George, considering how small the town was and its meager population (around 2,000 at the time). A week or two later a broker from another major grits company made a similar remark about the large quantity of grits shipped into this small town. As it turned out, the people of St. George ate more grits per capita than any other place in the world! We were the GRITS EATING CHAMPIONS!!! Thus the World Grits Festival was born.
Corn Dogs, Carnival Rides and Carnies
The Festival consumes a mile stretch of road. Maaaybe two. Every bad-for-you carnival food option is there: corn dogs spelled with a “k” AND spelled with a “c.” I’m not aware of any flavor distinction. Elephant ears and funnel cakes–they both have fried dough and powdered sugar so only discerning palates can assess the need for both. Classic carnival rides like the Ferris wheel for a whopping $5 and the game of squirting water in the infinitesimal hole to win a gargantuan stuffed animal. The Carnies had the obligatory weathered clothing and weathered skin. So all told, it was wonderful!
A Warm Southern Welcome
The people were incredibly gracious. “Sugar, honey, sweetie, boo.” And it all seemed sincere. Plus an incredible fascination with my camera, speculation that I was a Northern journalist, and respect for my wanderlust. I was quick to judge a man who let his son wear his hair in a rat tail; then that same man politely and instinctively said “ma’am” to the black woman waiting on him at Waffle House—my perspective shifted (but just a little). It was beautiful to see things change while the festival was an homage to everything staying very much the same.
Are All those Beauty Queens Really Necessary?
Nearly the whole damn town had on a crown and poufy hair. You go girl.
The Grits Roll
Starving people everywhere cried a bit harder while this event happened. A kiddie pool was filled with cooked grits and children climbed in to see how much they could stuff into their shirts taped at the waist and wrist to hold it all in. The winner: 24 pounds heavier with grits. Then a hose-off and the next kid comes in. We crowded around to watch this germy-and-squishy spectacle and I have to admit it was spectacular fun. The adults did it the next day. No thank you. Then there was a corn shucking – getting all the kernels off of dried corn simply by smashing two ears together. Now who decided this was a good thing to do?