Pepper Festival #11: Careful What you Wish For

Every August, I have a panic attack about the Amazing Pepper Festival.  I wake up in the dead of night – that persistent voice in my head… No one is coming.  We won’t sell a single ticket.  Surely, we will run out of peppers.  Are we going to have enough chefs? How will we pay for this?   Where are the 100 volunteers going to come from?  The list goes on.  Peppers haunt me in my dreams.

This year, that voice of doubt is the same – but everything is different.   The tipping point has arrived: we have sold a record number of tickets, nearly 3x where we were at this time last year!  The outcome of sleepless nights and pepper dreams… We created one of the most beautiful local food festivals on the eastern seaboard.

Our goals have been the same since the beginning: to contribute to our local economy, to pay the local farmers for their peppers, to increase production of this super food in the Piedmont of North Carolina, to educate the children about the importance of eating well, to show the Chefs, Food Artisans and the consumer about the joys of eating and procuring locally.  All because it will make our people and our soils healthier.

The result is clear – Pepperfest is unlike any other food festival in the region.  We pay our farmers market-value for the peppers used in the festival. We don’t expect them to donate produce, as it’s said that those who have the least give the most.  We’re writing a new narrative, one of Abundance over extraction. We also wanted this festival to be accessible to ALL – not just the wealthy. Most food festivals are prohibitively expensive.  We start at $20 and graduate to $35 at the door. Kids are welcome and encouraged – kids tickets are $5 as they are our future!

The advantage for Chefs, Restaurants, Beverage Makers and Food Artisans is that it introduces their business to about 2500 folks and more if you count all the pre and post marketing.  Across all cultures, food builds community.

Pepperfest builds community.

We’ve worked hard and partnered with hundreds of businesses and organizations in our 11 years.  Our relationship with Briar Chapel has been a decade long and is characterized by deep growth and symbiosis.  Pair their logistics and infrastructure expertise with our flair for fun and integrity around food and community.  It’s been an fabulous and rewarding partnership.

And this is our last Pepper Festival at Briar Chapel.

We’ve outgrown the Great Meadow Park and we will be transitioning to a new venue next year.  There is a fabulous metamorphosis in process – and we don’t know what we’ll look like when we emerge next year.  But we trust that the next iteration will just as powerful as the 11 years leading up to it! We hope that many of the vendors, businesses and attendees will come along as we transform Pepper Festival to the next iteration.  

We’re open to new ideas and directions.  What do YOU wanna see Pepperfest become? Creating a network of regional Pepper Festivals.  Hosting it at a different farm each year. Holding the festival the streets of Pittsboro. Summoning the spirit of Julia Child from beyond the grave.

Ok, maybe no ghosts….  But we will be working with our ancestors, all of our good cooking Grannies and Grandfathers!   We will shift the festival in a new direction of the community’s choosing and perhaps ride that edge of creativity into a more unique festival – always keeping the focus on local, accessibility, healthy, community, love, and pure bliss.  

To get involved this year, be sure and let us know if you want to sponsor, be a food vendor, volunteer, or just get tickets and enjoy.  We’ll see you there Sunday, September 23rd for food, drink, music, awards, and to connect most of all.