Cropping up: Tampa Bay Collard Greens Festival headed for St. Pete

Cooking demos, tastings and other details on the inaugural February event.

click to enlarge Yep, the collards are coming. - Effie Orfanides
Effie Orfanides
Yep, the collards are coming.

Next month, an inaugural festival driven by collard greens is set to hit St. Petersburg.

The Tampa Bay Collard Greens Festival (TBCGF, for short) — held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 24 and free to the public — is the brainchild of Samantha Wilson and Boyzell Hosey. Wilson works as an accounting assistant in Largo, while her partner, Hosey, is an assistant managing editor for the Tampa Bay Times.

The two met at church a couple of years ago and quickly became friends.

"We'd always talk about food," Wilson said. "One day, we started talking about collard greens. It came out of nowhere, to be honest. We laughed at this idea."

After doing some research, however, they learned of festivals dedicated to collards "all over the country." That's when the idea of bringing a similar event to the region — stemming from their shared love of the leafy greens — started to develop.

"We began to figure out how we could collaborate with other organizations to share all of our resources in a fun, family-oriented way," Wilson continued.

The TBCGF has partnered with the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, a host of many of the day's events. The plan is to organize the fest like a block party in St. Pete's historic Deuces corridor at Ninth Avenue and 22nd Street South, where vendors can line the streets with all sorts of goodies.

Live cooking demonstrations and tastings are among the highlights, thanks to the TBCGF's partnerships with Pinellas Technical College and the Bay area chapter of the American Culinary Federation, both of which will be "making veggies of all kinds." One notable demo — scheduled for 12:30 p.m. — comes from seasoned chef and James Beard Award finalist Edouardo Jordan, a St. Pete native who owns Seattle's Salare and JuneBaby.

Additionally, a kids' zone will offer more interactive festivities until 3 p.m., featuring segments related to horticulture, growing vegetables, nutrition, and eating a well-balanced diet. There's a focus on exercise, too, with a local fitness instructor who's put together a fun, 45-minute workout routine, and on-air radio personalities Buckwheat and Kenzie K. of Wild 94.1 will be on-site to discuss healthy eating with the kiddos.

But what kind of food fest would this be without a little friendly competition? The event's cook-off allows amateurs and professionals to battle it out in three categories — meat, vegetarian and nontraditonal — using their finest recipes for collards. It costs $30 to enter, and a $300 grand prize (plus bragging rights, of course) is up for grabs. The TBCGF will also recognize a second-place winner and fan favorite, determined by the crowd.

For folks who aren't big on collards or veggies, here's a simple piece of advice from Wilson, who says she once attended a fest that featured collard greens ice cream and collard greens pie: "Just give it a try. I'm friends with people who have never eaten lima beans or asparagus."

Collards After Dark will help the TBCGF wind down. Hosted inside the Manhattan Casino from 7 to 10 p.m., the event expects to spotlight food, cocktails, dancing, spoken word and other live entertainment. Individual tickets can be purchased at $25, or $44 for a couple.

"It's an event for the community to come together," Wilson said of the TBCGF. "We planned for it to take place the last Saturday of Black History [Month] because it's assumed that African Americans like to eat collards, but everybody loves collard greens."

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