WARWICK — Every year about this time, the folks of Warwick gather to pay homage to the Georgia’s official processed food: grits.
There is not a grits processor in Warwick, which is located between Albany and Cordele on the shores of Lake Blackshear. They don’t make them here, they just celebrate them. Unlike Gainesville, which is the Poultry Capital of the World, a bowl of grits served in Warwick may have been made in another state. If you’re eating chicken in Gainesville, there’s a decent chance it was processed there.
There are a bunch of Georgia festivals in the next few weeks that pay homage to a variety of things, including roses, strawberries, onions and crawfish.
But Warwick, population 401, and a few hundred folks from out of town, would make you think that the center of the grits universe was right here.
Earlier in the month, they gathered to crown the new Miss Grits, who reigned over the pageant along with the newly crowned Little Miss Grits and Tiny Miss Grits. With glittering crowns and satin sashes, they greeted their subjects here in the capital of grit-dom.
The festival begins in the morning with the National Grits Festival breakfast, which includes a serving of locally made link sausage from the famed Stripling Sausage Co. It may be the best sausage I’ve ever had.
But the event that is most talked about is the grits pit. A large cattle trough is filled with gallons and gallons of grits — genuine Quaker Instant Grits, no less. A pair of people spent much of the morning using large boat paddles to stir the cold grits.
At a designated time, individual contestants are weighed prior to jumping into the grits pit. They are allowed to wallow around for a period of time and then come out of the mixture to be weighed again. The person who has the largest amount of grits adhered to them is the winner. I would like to tell you who the winner was, but I just can’t stand to watch such things.
It seems every possible amenity that could be associated with a grits festival has been covered. As one might expect, they have a contest for the best grits. Cooks from throughout the area bring their dishes, some with secret recipes, for judging by authoritative grits connoisseurs.
They even have a song, an anthem that is a tribute to grits.
Warwick seized the opportunity and has a lock on the celebration of grits. There are two oatmeal festivals, one in Bertram, Texas and the other in Lafayette, Colo. You would think that Alma, the seat of Georgia’s Bacon County, would be the site of a bacon festival. No, they choose to celebrate blueberries every June.
If you’re looking for other likely breakfast celebrations, mark you calendar for the Egg Festival in Mentone, Ind. It’s the first weekend in June. That same weekend, Knoxville, Tenn., has the International Biscuit Festival.
A week later, they’re holding the Toast Festival in New Zealand. Unfortunately, it’s all about raising a glass to New Zealand. But, they are holding it at the Ham Polo Club.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Harris Blackwood is a columnist for The Times. His column appears every week in Sunday Life.