By CRISTIN REECE
PALESTINE — It's going to be a hot time on the old town this weekend — Hot Pepper time, that is!
Palestine's annual Hot Pepper Festival kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday with some pre-festival fun in The Hollow at Old Town. Festival goers can enjoy live music from 6 to 8:30 p.m., from Slip-Tumble-Trip, Deirdre Thornell and The Bigsbys, as local cook-off teams compete for the 'best barbecue' title.
“Prep for this year's festival has gone very well,” Palestine Events Coordinator Heather Hrebec said. “We're expecting a pretty big turnout this year since we've increased the number of bands playing, we added more activities and booths, the parade is bigger — things are growing like crazy this year!”
The fun continues at 10 a.m. Saturday with the Hot Pepper Express parade. The parade route starts at the Anderson County Courthouse, proceeds down Avenue A, will take a right onto Main Street and then proceed four blocks before making a right onto Queen Street. From there, the procession will make four blocks and take a right on Lacy, to end up right back at the Anderson County Courthouse.
City officials said debris from a recent structure fire downtown will not hamper the parade or any other Hot Pepper event.
“It's pretty well piled up, out of the way of everything, so we shouldn't have any problems,” City Public Works Director Tim Perry said.
Event organizers suggest spots along Avenue A and at the turn on Queen Street where the floats will slow to make the turn for optimal parade viewing.
This year's festival features three entertainment stages. The Jalapeno Stage kicks off the family fun at 11 a.m. and will showcase the Macho Pepper Eating Contest, and entertainment from the Academy of Dance, Dogwood Squares Dancers, Steps of Faith Dance and Rockin’ Rick. Event officials also will announce parade float contest winners from this stage.
The Habanero Stage will feature entertainment acts throughout the day including, Larry Hooper, Cody Reily Band, Blacktop Mojo and Matt Begly & Bitter Whiskey. The Chili Pepper Stage's shows begin at 1 p.m. and features Molly and the Ringwalds, Mark Allan Atwood and Brimstone, Westbound 21, Backseat Molly, and Billboard chart toppers JB & the Moonshine Band.
The year's festival also brings back perennial favorites like the Little Pepper Kids Zone, an antique tractor show, farmer's market, arts and crafts booths and exhibits and BARC's Hot Puppy Fest. All of those attractions will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Hot Pepper Festival attendees are reminded per City Code Chapter 14 Article 2, leash laws are in effect. All animals must be restrained and have current vaccination tags.
“For the safety of our two- and four-legged friends, animal control officers will be monitoring the festival for compliance, and will be available to answer questions regarding the ordinance,” Palestine Main Street Program Director Laura Westgate said.
City officials also urge resident motorists to avoid traveling through the downtown area this weekend as Spring Street will close at midnight Saturday, and will remain closed through Sunday morning for the festivities. Other streets that will be closed from midnight to 10 p.m. Saturday include West Main, West Oak and West Crawford streets.
Check out the Hot Pepper Festival on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HotPepperFestival