Purple Hull Peas and Tiller Races…

Well…I’m back from the Arkansas Archeological Society summer archeol

ogical training program (AKA the “summer dig”)…this year it was hosted by my sister station (Henderson State University) and we excavated two Archaic (6,000 old) sites near Malvern, Arkansas…I had a good time.

While I was there I took note that Malvern holds the “Malvern Brick-Fest” every June. Brick-Fest is a celebration of the town’s claim to “Brick Capital of the World” (the Acme Brick plant produces 30,000 bricks per hour). But Brick-Fest pales in comparison to the events about to take place this weekend in Emerson, Arkansas…just south of Magnolia in southern Columbia County…this weekend is the PurpleHull Pea Festival…

There is a lot going on at the festival….there’s the PurpleHull Pageant, the PurpleHull Pea Gospel Singing, the PurpleHull Pea Auction, the Walk for World Peas (I love that one), the World Cup PurpleHull Pea Shelling Competition…but the undoubted highlight is the World Championship Rotary Tiller Race…that’s right….I said THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP ROTARY TILLER RACE.

The race started as a joke at the very first PurpleHull Pea Festival in 1990, but it has evolved into a monster…There simply is no other event like it. The web site proclaims that it is “…unique among motor sports, we like to say it is the highlight of the tiller racing season. ‘Course, to the best of our knowledge, our one-day event is the tiller racing season.”
Racing divisions include Stock, Overall Stock, Modified, Powder Puff, and Super Dirt Slangers…the rules specify that all Tiller Pilots (yes, that’s what they are called) much be in control of their tillers as the cross the line and…and how is this for playing into stereotype…all participants must wear shoes.
Wait….it gets even better…During the race, a team of Tiller Girls roams the crowd…as there is no admission charge, they take up donations….The Tiller Girl who collects the largest total amount of donations earns points toward winning the title of “Tiller Goddess.” Check out the 2001 “Tiller Goddess” Christie Dupree pictured to the right.
So, if you’re down my way in late June…you’ve gotta come see this…If you can’t check out the website: http://www.purplehull.com/index.htm

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