National Banana Pudding Festival is Coming to Centerville

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Did you know that it wasn’t until well after the Civil War that bananas were even accessible in the South or anywhere else in the United States? And that Nilla Vanilla wafers weren’t a part of the recipe until the 1920s? While recipes for the sweet concoction could be found all over the country beginning in the late 1800s, the baked variety became a Southern potluck staple in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Today, it is seen as the ultimate Southern dessert and for the last 12 years, Centerville, Tennessee has been the home of the National Banana Pudding Competition. The thirteenth annual National Banana Pudding Festival will take place on October 1 and October 2.

A pudding cook-off, pudding eating along the Puddin’ Path, a craft village and music are sure to keep everyone entertained and their sweet tooth sated. The event will start at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, October 1 on Mable’s Front Porch Stage. Contestants from around the country will go head to head to decide who makes the best banana pudding. As the contestants get going with the pudding competition, Band Angelica will begin performing on the Arena Stage at 10:30 a.m. And between 11:15 a.m. and noon will be the Cook-off Auction. Prize winners will be announced at 1:30 p.m.

Last year’s first place winner was Elaine Barbee from St. Charles, Missouri. Her pudding was called “Screwball Banana Pudding with Peanut Butter Hard Sauce”. Shanon Gates from Leicester, North Carolina came in second with “Blackstrap Banana Pudding”. “Sea Salt Caramel Pudding” made by Elizabeth Hammons from Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee came in third place.

Barbee is a retired program administrator for inner city gang kids. During her 28-year career, she spent a lot of time in high security violent offender units. Once her kids had done their time, she did what she could to prepare them to succeed in life. “Baking was a mindless activity that came natural to me,” she said on the Banana Pudding Fest’s Facebook page, “and I could use my hands, use my creativity, and not have to think about the harder things in life that I had to deal with on a daily basis at work.”

“The main attraction [after the bake-off] at the festival is always the Puddin’ Path,” says the event’s website, “where you sample many different flavors and styles of banana pudding.” Each of these recipes is created and served by volunteers from one of the area’s non-profit organizations. Nonprofits participating at this year’s tasting event include Duck River United Methodist Charge, Centerville Women’s Club, Fairfield Church of Christ Youth, several Relay for Life teams, East Hickman High School Culinary Arts Department, Shady Grove United Methodist Church and Children’s Tumor Foundation. These organizations will be offering pudding in the following flavors: Banana Moon Pie Pudding, Puddin’ and Pearls, Banana Split Pudding, The Chisel with Oreos, Chocolate and Peanut Butter, Laffy Taffy, White Chocolate and Caramel, Belle’s Best and Salted Caramel. There is even a “Pudding to Go” tent.

Other activities will also occur during the day. Live music will be performed throughout the two days by Roger Day, Junction Drive, Muletown Stompers, Travis Tidwell Band, The Keepers, Marcia Alexander and Friends, and Charlie Fink and the Businessmen. There will be a village of craft booths with some of the finest craft artists in the country. A Little ‘Nanners Kids’ Area has rides and activities for the small fry, and there is Banana Land for older kids. Also for the kiddies will be the Runaway Puppet theater on Sunday.

It all got started in 2010 when a group of community volunteers were looking for a way to raise money for local charities that helped victims of disasters, fires, tornadoes and floods. They decided to create The National Banana Pudding Festival, and the festival has become a non-profit created to continue on the mission of raising money for local charities. It has been growing every year. And a cookbook with recipes from the 2010 to 2014 festivals is available to enjoy the tasty dessert all year around.

“This festival is about showing warm hospitality,” said one of the festival’s committee members.

The National Banana Pudding Festival will take place at the Hickman Ag Pavilion in Centerville, Tennessee near the Grinder’s Switch Railway Station. The hours of the event are Saturday, October 1, 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. and Sunday, October 2, 12:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for kids five to 12, $8 for the Pudding Path, and $8 for “Puddin’ to Go” boxes. Additional information is available on their website at bananapuddingfest.org, by phone (931) 994-6273, or by email at [email protected]

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