Celebrating the Pecan in Mississippi

The official arrival of fall in Mississippi begins when you hear the sound of pecans thunking on the ground. A breezy day can result in a welcome harvest of nuts, the perfect ingredient for literally hundreds of southern recipes. Lovingly dubbed “Mississippi nuts” by President George Washington, this native nut tree can be found in most of the U.S. However, it’s most appreciated where it’s plentiful, in the Magnolia State. Crack a pecan open and pop it in your mouth and you’ll see what all the fuss is about.

In Mississippi, the pecan represents ties to past traditions of food, fun and fellowship. Many Mississippi communities pay tribute to the delicious food with festivals and pie cook-offs. Like so many southern traditions, the pecan gives southerners another excuse to gather together to share a recipe and savor the unique flavors of the south.

You can get in on the food and fun by attending the 25th Annual Mississippi Pecan Festival. Mark September 28-30, 2012 on the calendar and prepare for a country drive to Richton, Mississippi. Organizers hold the festival in a pecan orchard on Wingate Road, keeping festival attendees sheltered under the rich canopy of pecan trees. Admission is $10 per person but children under 4 are free. Want to stay for the whole festival? Bring an RV and make yourself at home! Fill out the RV application on the Mississippi Pecan Festival’s website and submit the information to reserve your spot.

Besides tasting Vera’s famous pecan pie and spicy nut mix, you’ll have the opportunity to walk around three living history homesteads. Fulmer’s Farmstead, the Jones’ House and Dunham House--all within ambling distance to the festival. Each homestead is over 100 years old and lovingly kept in its original condition, down to the last lantern. View the antiques, watch local women church fresh butter and bake fresh “cathead” biscuits on the Farmstead’s wood stove. You’ll also see quilters at work and home crafters pickling foods and making soaps.

Once you’ve taken a walk through the past, stop by the Victory Garden to see what fall harvest is growing and stop at the hen house before rejoining the festival for the Purtiest Rooster Contest. The Mississippi Pecan festival also boasts the stock dog demonstrations, live bluegrass, an antique engine show and draft horse demonstrations. Once the mule pull is over, walk through the arts and crafts section for a take home memento.

If you’ve got a family pecan pie recipe you’re proud of, sign up for the Pecan Bake Off. All proceeds for this charity event go to the Tupelo Children’s Home. There’s no entry fee and the winners will receive a $100 for first prize and $50 for the second prize.

This year’s Mississippi Pecan Festival promises to meander through the memories of festival-goers for a long time. Come participate in one of the state’s most beloved events.