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January 15, 2013

Collards and Cornbreak Cook-off slated

The Christmas tree, garland and boughs of holly have been packed away for another year. Now it’s time to celebrate the new year with a different variety of greenery — collard greens.

The Americus Times-Recorder and the Americus Rotary Club are teaming up to sponsor the first Collards and Cornbread Cook-Off on Saturday, Jan. 26 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Lenny’s Market in downtown Americus.

Collards, a cool-season crop grown here in the South, are traditionally part of the New Year’s Day celebration and are usually served with black-eyed peas and cornbread. The black-eyed peas are thought to bring a person good luck while the collards represent wealth in the new year. According to some traditions, cornbread represents gold money or pocket change; it’s also good for sopping up pot liquor from the collards.

ATR Publisher Tom Overton enjoys cooking and eating collards. One day while driving around Sumter County and seeing all the patches of collard greens, he thought “Why don’t we start the new year with a collard cooking contest?”

The Americus Rotary Club agreed to co-sponsor the event and proceeds will benefit the club’s scholarship program.

“We invite everyone to come out and enjoy an afternoon of fun and good cooking, while also supporting a worthy cause,” said Rotary President Carey Harbuck.

The contest is open to amateur and professional cooks. A panel of local and celebrity judges will judge the contest beginning at 1 p.m. Attendees can pay $5 to sample and cast a vote for the People’s Choice Award.

Cornbread and other victuals will be available for those who might not enjoy the unique taste of the collard green.

The winner in the professional division will receive the official 2013 Collards Cook-Off Champ plaque and bragging rights for his or her restaurant. The winner of the amateur division will win a $100 gift certificate. The entry fee is $25 for amateurs and $50 for professional.

Set-up will begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26. Contestants may begin cooking on site at that time or they can cook their food off-site. Booths must be ready by 9:30 a.m.

The schedule for the day is as follows:

n 11 a.m., market begins

n Noon, live music

n 1 p.m., collards judging/tasting begins

n 2 p.m., judging ends

n 2:30 p.m., Collards Cook-Off winners announced

n 4 p.m., market closes

Contest details and cooking regulations are available at the Americus Times-Recorder office or at the Tourism Council Office in City Hall. For more information, contact Tourism Director Angie Singletary at (229) 928-6059 or email tourist@sowega.net. 

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