It’s interesting to see how many festivals start out as a simple idea or a joke between friends. The Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival is one more to add to the list. Founder Boyzell Hosey, also Tampa Bay Times’ Deputy Editor of Photography and Multimedia, says the idea is to help educate the community about healthier ways of living through what we eat.
“Once we shared the notion of how a novel way of cooking a collard green could spur other ideas, my wife and I started experimenting with different ways of making them in an electric pressure cooker,” Hosey tells CL.
He and co-founder Samantha Harris initially laughed at the concept. When they did their research, they found there were several other collard green festivals across the country. They traveled to The Original Collard Greens Cultural Festival in the Atlanta suburb of Lithonia, to get a look at how it operates.
“We started thinking of the advantages we have with bringing a collard green festival here. One of them is the weather because in the winter because we can grow greens in Florida during that time,” Hosey explains.
The more they shared the idea to people, interest grew. Whenever they’d mention it, people immediately told stories of their experiences with collard greens from cooking to the smells that consumed their childhood homes. According to Harris, cooking in a healthier way affects everyone. She says Black women today suffer illnesses that can be prevented by small changes to the diet.
“For me and seeing other African-American women in particular, we having strokes and getting sicker earlier because of eating habits,” she says.
The choice to partner with the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum in St. Petersburg was strategic.
“It’s on purpose that it takes place in a lower-income community and we knew when they were on board, we were on to something,” Harris says.
Harris was skeptical about the inaugural festival in 2018 initially but when she saw the turnout, she knew it was a hit with the community.
“We were surprised that folks came out. We had sponsors our first year. Everyone came out and stayed all day,” she adds.
The 3rd Annual Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival happens February 15 at Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum beginning at 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. This year, attendees can expect several presentations from local chefs Anne White and Javon Holmes, Ray Wunderlich, owner of St. Petersburg’s Wunder Farms; cooking demonstrations, and vendors showcasing a number of ways to cook collard greens. Headliner this year is food/nutrition journalist and cookbook author Toni Tipton-Martin. If you’re not able to make the festival, Tipton-Martin and Tampa Bay Times Food Critic Helen Freund will be at Tombolo Books on Valentine’s Day for the Collards After Dark event, where they’ll chat all about how good food creates relationships.
The festival is free. Collards After Dark tickets range between $25-60.
“It’s free and it’s going to stay free. They obviously enjoy it and it’s a great time of the year. This is how we want to give to the community,” she explains.
Vendors can enter a cook-off to see who makes the best collards. First place winners in the meat and vegan categories receive $500. Cook-off entries are still being accepted online through the festival’s website. The deadline for vendors to sign up online is Feb. 8.
Be on the lookout for the Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival app, available for download on Apple and Android beforehand. It lists all the festivities and cuts down on waste.
Harris says their mission is to inspire healthier communities through urban agriculture, culinary experience, fitness, and family fun.
“We want the festival to continue to grow," she says. "At the end of the day, we want this for the community by the community."
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