The festivals and major events keep rolling through spring in Knoxville and this weekend saw a couple of massive events. First, the International Biscuit Festival hit downtown on Saturday and approximately a million (give or take) people descended on the center city. After gorging on biscuits on Saturday, Knoxville rallied for a health and activity centered event on Sunday in Open Streets. We’ll start this week by talking biscuits.
I was a little slow to make it to the Biscuit Festival, mostly out of laziness on a Saturday morning, but also as a veteran of several such lard-laced events, I knew the beginning would likely be the most crowded moment of the day. By the time I arrived the crowed had probably eased from impossible to overwhelming. It’s quite striking to see that many people packing city streets.
I have to say, though, by the time I arrived, I was able to move through the Farmers’ Market and into the flow of the Biscuit Festival without too much trouble. The intersection of Clinch and Market, a scene of utter gridlock in past years didn’t seem to be as difficult.
The smells throughout the festival were great, of course. The folks from Mast General store were frying bacon and I happened to be chatting with Robert Maddox (the guy who plays the saw) near their booth. I commented that the smell of frying bacon may be the best smell in the world. He enthusiastically agreed – and then surprised me by saying he is vegan. I guess it’s so good even a vegan has to acknowledge the fact.
Lines were the story of the day, however. I was told the longest was the initial ticket line, and I don’t doubt it. The person who told me that, however, was in it and said it flowed well enough. That laid-back attitude seemed to carry many people through their biscuit trials as they endured long lines. I counted two lines at well over 250 and another at close to 200. People seemed to be taking the lines in stride and having a good time.
I heard a little of the music on the Flatbed Stage. Sally and George from Nashville were quite good. I never was able to find a schedule for the performances or I might have tried to catch more. The recent addition to our busking crew who plays the steel drum set up shop in the primary seating area and I enjoyed hearing him.
I also missed the Mr. and Miss Biscuit Contest this year. The schedule listed it from 2:30 to 4:30 and I arrived at 3:30 to find it finished. I was able to drop by the contest tent during the baking portion and see Erin Donovan and Brent Thompson in action, doing what they always do and keeping the fun moving along. I did see a funny Facebook video circulating which showed one Hayden Brackeen with his winning performance prior to being crowned Mr. Biscuit.
As for the biscuits, some of the notable awards went to Matt Sandbank in the baking contest, Marble City Kitchen for the People’s Choice Award (check them out at the Hilton – they are really making some good food), and Critic’s Choice Award to Deep South Biscuit Company out of Atlanta and Best Biscuit Booth went to Blue Coast Grill and Bar who, I am hearing, have made some real strides recently.
We ended the day hanging out at the Market House Cafe where chef and manager T.J. had constructed the largest biscuit I’d ever seen which, while not directly involved with the festival, certainly got into the spirit. The weather was perfect, the biscuit eaters happy and Knoxville enjoyed another fun spring Saturday.