By Cheril Vernon
Messenger Copy Editor
PALESTINE – They say it is hotter in Texas. Well, at this year’s Hot Pepper Festival, held Saturday, Oct. 21 in Old Town and Downtown Palestine, it was definitely hotter to the dozen or so contestants who participated in the Hot Pepper Eating Contest.
“We had quite a few contestants and they lasted a long time. Most of them ate a whole bunch of peppers. They went all the way up to the scorpion (pepper),” Hot Pepper Festival organizer and City of Palestine Project Manager Danielle Shultz told The Messenger on Tuesday, Oct. 24. “They were eating so many peppers and it was so hard on them that they were throwing up in the trash cans. We had lots of people watching them in the contest, all circled around the bleachers and in tables and chairs and everywhere in the parking lots.”
Brandon Needham captured the Hot Pepper Eating Contest title, winning $100. James Warren came in second, winning $50.
The Hot Pepper Festival kicked off on Saturday morning with the annual Hot Pepper Parade, appropriately themed “Everything’s Hotter in Texas.”
Overall first-place parade winner was Evangelistic Temple’s float, winning the Palestine church $300.
Parade winners by category include:
• Floats – Evangelistic Temple, first; G-4orce Athletics, second; and Dogwood Pediatrics, third.
• Automobile – Texas Vineyard & Smokehaus, first; Metro PCS, second; and Quality Cool Air, third.
• Equine – Miss Dogwood Frontier Rodeo, first; Tejas Riders, second.
At least 5,000 people attended the festival, according to Shultz, which also included typical festival food such as funnel cakes, sausage-on-a-stick and turkey legs, as well as vendors selling everything from candles, t-shirts and toys.
“I would say we had somewhere between 5,000 to 10,000 people at the festival though it’s hard to give an exact figure,” Shultz said. “I feel like it was a great success. We had lots of live entertainment, lots of dancers – the kids and cloggers.”
Thanks to the help of local sponsors, children attending the festival were able to play on six pieces of interactive entertainment for free – something new at this year’s event.
“It was a huge success. We had laser tag, a zipline, mechanical bull, a log slammer and more all for free for the kids,” Shultz said. “We had fantastic sponsors that helped pay for it.”
Even though a large musical headliner was not booked for the festival as in past years, Shultz said the festival went well.
“We had more local bands performing and they were just as well attended as in past years. It really was better for us,” Shultz said.
City of Palestine Public Information Officer Nate Smith said the festival turnout was good.
“From my vantage point, we had a great turnout. We had a record number of vendors come to the festival, and I think everyone was pleased on the festival entertainment,” Smith said. “I’m glad the rain held off so everyone could enjoy. I know for my family, they had a great time.”