With the end of a long, hot Carolina summer, the annual North Carolina Pepper Festival graces the triad with good eats, artisan drinks and live music to wash it all down. Last weekend, festival goers poured in to the Great Meadow Park in Chapel Hill to take in the sights, tastes, and entertainment for themselves.
A mere mile walk from complimentary parking, the festival was sprawled through the middle of a luxurious neighborhood, with a long stretch of grass cutting through the middle. Booths from countless food and beverage vendors lined the edges of the asphalt, welcoming guests to the festival.
Hosted by Abundance NC, a sustainability organization local to the triad, this year’s pepper fest was the 11th and counting– and abundant it was. With over 500 pounds of peppers, chefs and brewers boasted their goods to the community. From spicy bloody marys to ceviche tacos, every sample was based on peppers.
Throughout the three-hour long fest, vendors gave patrons both samples and a peppering (pun intended) of knowledge about the peppers involved in the outstanding cuisine. Patrons ate, drank and learned about the peppers in their meals– which were all sourced from our local foodshed. For those with spice aversions, there were also milder samples available from many vendors.
While supporting local farmers with their fiery purchases, vendors also worked towards making the festival zero-waste, which was an incredible feat that feeds back into the mission of Abundance NC. Every thirty yards or so, there was a disposal system with recycling, compost, and signs directing the intended items to the correct can.
From a sustainability standpoint, the NC Pepper Festival provides an excellent source of zero-waste entertainment. The food was impeccable, the drinks free of charge– what could make for a better Sunday afternoon? The fact that the peppers for the festival were all locally sourced was simply the cherry on top. As the hours passed on, guests were clearly having a blast till the very end. Even with the gloomy weather and threat of rain, festival-goers brightened up the affair with their excitement and passion for the delicious eats and family-friendly entertainment.
While most vendors were there to represent their restaurants, a few small businesses were represented as well. Rising Smoke Pepperworks was one of the few. An independently owned hot sauce company, they handed out samples of their sauces on tortilla chips. Customers came and went, munching on chips and contemplating a purchase. The small, family owned business greeted everyone with a smile.
When asked about the festival, one of the owners said, “This is our first year here and we really like it. It seems like they’re outgrowing the spot, though.”
The statement about the growth of the festival was true. With all the vendors packed into the corners of the asphalt, the lines were crowding into the play space for the children at some booths. However, there are rumors that the venue for the PepperFest will change in coming years, as the festival continues to grow. While this rumor is unconfirmed, the potential move could be a good thing– more space equals more vendors, which encourages more local purchases.
While Abundance NC is the sponsor of the Pepper Festival, the fest isn’t their only sustainability endeavor in the triad. They also host a multitude of sustainability workshops– some for folks looking to live a less wasteful lifestyle, to the workshops that teach farmers to change their practices to mesh better with current climate change. From small scale to large, Abundance NC works hard to make sure that we are working towards a more sustainable future. To find a sustainability workshop near you, browse the Abundance NC website here: