Chapel Hill, N.C. — If you’ve been in years past, you know that PepperFest is a veritable sea of capsaicin-laden amusement.
The ninth annual festival, presented by Abundance North Carolina, will be held Sunday at the Great Meadow Park of Briar Chapel in Chapel Hill.
The festival is considered a celebration of sustainable agriculture, farmers and the creativity of the Piedmont’s food scene. It started out in 2008 as a pepper tasting for Piedmont Biofarm’s pepper breeding program.
"The first year was about 40 people tasting different peppers and writing down their thoughts with specific questions about the peppers being answered. The second year we added chefs and music. The weather was cold and rainy and 200 people showed up. The third year we added pepper beer, the weather was sunny and gorgeous. We had 600 folks," Abundance NC executive director Tami Schwerin said.
This year, organizers expect close to 2,000 attendees, who will be sampling dishes and drinks from local chefs and vendors. Awards will be given out for the best Southern dish, most surprising dish, best beer and best spirit featuring peppers.
Among the drinks available will be Fair Game Beverage's Flying Pepper vodka, which was created to honor the legacy of early Indy 500 auto racer The Flying Pepper. The name is also fitting since The Flying Pepper is a sponsor of this year's bi-plane aerial show.
In addition to the sweet and spicy food and drink, there will also be a lot of family fun.
"We have put a lot of effort into the kids' activities because we love the spirit kids bring, and it allows the parents to have even more fun. We’ll have giant bubbles, an aerial skills workshop, Crazy Casey's magic show, crafts and face painting," Tami Schwerin said.
Another new feature this year is the eco-friendly fashion show, which will highlight recycled fashion, organic cotton and a new hemp fiber.
The music lineup this year features acts such as Rinaldi Flying Circus, Front Country and Mysti Mayhem.
“I love the joy and happiness on the faces of the attendees. People let their hair down, relax with their kids and truly enjoy an afternoon of great locally made and sourced food and drink along with amazing bands, kids workshops and all sorts of surprises," Tami Schwerin said.
Tickets for the festival start at $20 in advance and are $35 at the door. Children aged 6 years and younger are admitted free, and tickets for those 7 to 12 years of age are $5.