Tag Archives: Festival

The Hottest Little Festival in Texas

Amazingly, the winner James can still speak even after eating a ghost pepper, which is rated at over one million Scoville units in heat.

Amazingly, the winner James can still speak even after eating a ghost pepper, which is rated at over one million Scoville units in heat.

 

There are a lot of festivals in east Texas, celebrating everything from roses, peanuts, yams, trains, pecans, mushrooms, pipe organs, chili making, stew making, duclimers, dogwoods and even feral hogs.

The Hot Pepper Eating Contest trophy with some of the hot peppers in the contest.

The Hot Pepper Eating Contest trophy with some of the hot peppers in the contest.

Palestine, Texas, boasts that it hosts the Hottest Little Festival in Texas every October. My family and I arrived in historic downtown Palestine in time for the hot pepper eating contest on Saturday, October 22, 2016.  Six brave people entered the contest. (Another two were turned away because they weren’t eighteen.)

The master of ceremonies of the Hot Pepper Eating Contest, which was sponsored by Brookshire Grocery Company.

The master of ceremonies of the Hot Pepper Eating Contest, which was sponsored by Brookshire Grocery Company.

Contestants were given a series of peppers in order of heat, beginning with green peppers with a Scovill rating of zero. Next was the banana pepper, the jalapeno, the serrano, the seven-pot and then the ghost pepper. The scorpion and the Carolina reaper were next, but all of the contestants except two had already dropped out when the ghost pepper was presented.  The runner-up declined the ghost pepper, so after James ate the ghost pepper, he was spared any further torture. The Carolina reaper is currently the hottest pepper in the world.

The master of ceremony told each contestant that they had to chew the pepper for a while and not swallow it until he told them to. I would have stopped after the banana pepper. James, the winner, received $150 and a trophy in the shape of a red hot pepper. The two runners up received a cake.  Each contestant got a glass of milk to drink to neutralize the heat.

According to Wikipedia, Palestine is a relatively small town located in the Piney Woods area of Texas,  equidistant from the major airport cities of Dallas, Houston and Shreveport.  It celebrates its natural beauty characterized by a magnificent dogwood floral blooming season with an annual Dogwood Trails festival in April. It’s a small town of about 20,000 people, but it’s big on history, with 1,800 historical sites on the National Register of Historic Places.  It’s the western terminus of the Texas State Railroad, a steam and diesel railroad museum operating between Palestine and Rusk.

All six of the entrants were able to eat the banana peppers.

All six of the entrants were able to eat the banana peppers.

Contest participants prepare to eat their jalapenos.

Contest participants prepare to eat their jalapenos.

The winner James, holding his trophy, drinks milk to neutralize the burning sensation. James has won the contest several times previously.

The winner James, holding his trophy, drinks milk to neutralize the burning sensation. James has won the contest several times.

James, the hot pepper eating contest winner, shows off his $150 check.

James, the hot pepper eating contest winner, shows off his $150 check.

Click on a thumbnail to start the slideshow:

The Scoville Scale measurement of the pungency and heat of chili peppers.

Hot Pepper Festival Facebook Page

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Day of the Dead Festival at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art

Paper Mache Mermaid Skeleton

A Paper Mache Mermaid Skeleton hangs in Kirkwood Hall at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. The skeleton is one of four hanging in the hall for the Day of the Dead (El Dia de los Muertos) festival planned for November 1, 2015. Sand paintings in an altar are also featured.

 

There are always activities at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri.  The museum’s exterior lights were bright blue in honor of the Kansas City Royals basbeall team being in the World Series.  Guards were wearing Kansas City Royals t-shirts.

Day of the Dead at the Nelson Atkins

Day of the Dead at the Nelson Atkins

Inside, in Kirkwood Hall, four paper mache skeletons hung from the ceiling for the museum’s Day of the Dead Festival.   In the center is an altar featuring sand paintings honoring ancestors, highlighting the four elements of earth, wind, fire and water.  Visitors are encouraged to write their own special remembrance.  The festival art is done in collaboration with local artists through Mattie Rhodes Center.  Music and dancing is scheduled for the festival on November 1, 2015.  The museum is at 4525 Oak Street, Kansas City, Missouri.

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Day of the Dead Festival.

Dead of the Dead Poetry and Photographs.

Day of the Dead Altar.

Day of the Dead Altar.

Day of the Dead Altar.

Day of the Dead Altar.

Paper Mache Skeleton with Heart.

Paper Mache Skeleton with Heart.

Paper Mache Skeleton with Monarch Butterfly Wings

Paper Mache Skeleton with Monarch Butterfly Wings. Monarch butterflies winter in Mexico.

Butterfly Sand Painting

Butterfly Sand Painting

 

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Dragon Boat Races in Kansas City

Thess dragon boat crew members paddle hard as they reach the finish in the International Dragon Boat Festival on June 14, 2014, on Brush Creek in the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.

This dragon boat crew paddle hard as they reach the finish in the International Dragon Boat Festival on June 14, 2014, on Brush Creek in the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.

Dragon boats full of hard-working crews raced on Brush Creek at the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri,  today (June 14, 2014).  I enjoyed the race loafing on the banks.  It looked like hard work, especially turning the boat to return to the starting point, which was also the finish line, but I’m sure it was a lot of fun, too.  Two boats raced each other in each race.  Whichever boat got around the pink buoy at the turn first was hard to beat.

Dragon Boat races are a 2,000-year-old tradition in China that arrived in Kansas City ten years ago.

The two dragon boats make the turn in their race in the International Dragon Boat Festival on June 14, 2014, on Brush Creek in the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri. Whoever is able to make the turn first has a great advantage.

The two dragon boats make the turn in their race in the International Dragon Boat Festival on June 14, 2014, on Brush Creek in the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri. Whoever is able to make the turn first has a great advantage.

The annual International Chinese Dragon Boat Festival in Kansas City was founded by Mr. Robert S. Chien with the Society for Friendship with China.  The crews debuted the four new fiberglass boats that were made for the event in China, part of a fleet commemorating of the death of Qu Yuan in 278 B.C.  The dragon boat tradition began, according to Chinese legend, because friends and admirers of the statesman and poet used boats, noise and food to scare away hungry fish after Qu Yuan drowned after throwing himself into a river.  Qu Wanshen, a 71st generation descendant of Qu Yuan, was on the schedule to attend. That’s some genealogy chart!

During the festival, sticky rice rice dumplings are eaten in honor of the rice dumplings thrown in the way two millennia ago. The rice dumplings, called Zongzi in Chinese, are sticky rice wrapped in bamboo/lotus/banana leaves. I, unfortunately, didn’t stumble across the food tent so I missed out on those.  Next year, that will be my first stop!

Chinese lanterns blow in the breeze on a footbridge over Brush Creek in Kansas City, Missouri.

Chinese lanterns blow in the breeze on a footbridge over Brush Creek in Kansas City, Missouri.

Qu Yuan was the earliest great patriotic poet as well as a great statesman, ideologist, diplomat and reformer in ancient China.  He lived in the latter part of the Warring States Period (476 BC – 221 BC). According to the Society for Friendship with China,  Qu Yuan was a minister to the Zhou emperor during the Warring States Period (475 – 221 BC). He was a wise man who was strongly opposed to the corruption of the imperial court.

Because of Qu Yuan’s success, he aroused jealousy in his fellow ministers. They plotted against him and convinced the emperor that Qu Yuan was a traitor. Qu Yuan was banished, and returned to his home town. During his years of banishment, Qu Yuan collected legends and folk tales, and wrote poetry. He never lost his patriotic love for his emperor, and was greatly concerned about the future of the Zhou dynasty.

Eventually the Qin warriors overthrew the Zhou rulers and proceeded to plunder the country. On the 5th day of May, 278 BC, Qu Yuan learned about the fall of his capital city, and in a fit of despair, committed suicide by throwing himself into the Miluo River. The townspeople, hearing of Qu Yuan’s fate, rushed to their boats to try to save him. Since he was much loved, they tried to prevent the fish from eating his body by throwing rice dumplings into the water. They beat drums to keep evil spirits away.

To this day, the 5th day of the 5th lunar month is celebrated by eating rice dumplings (zong zi) and racing dragon boats. It is also a day for wearing talismans to keep away evil spirits. Adults drink Xiong Huang wine, and children wear fragrant silk pouches to guard against evil.

In Chinese culture, Dragon boat festival has been an important holiday for centuries, but in recent years dragon boat racing has become an international sport.

Four dragon boats are tied up at the dock, awaiting their races.  These boats were built in China for the Kansas City race.

Four dragon boats are tied up at the dock, awaiting their races. These boats were built in China for the Kansas City race.

 

Spectators have fun while waiting for the next dragon boat race to begin on Brush Creek in Kansas City.

Spectators have fun while waiting for the next dragon boat race to begin on Brush Creek in Kansas City.

Click on a thumbnail to see a full-size photo and a caption.

About the Society for Friendship with China.

 

 

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