Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Green Cove Springs Soul Food Festival Expected To Draw In Thousands

Ryan Benk

Green Cove Springs is gearing up for one of its largest cultural celebrations, the 14th Annual Soul Food Festival.

People from as far away as Atlanta are expected to attend the weekend-long event.

But, it wasn't always the draw it is today.

On Tuesday, historian and Green Cove Springs native Eugene Francis surveyed the park where the city’s Soul Food Festival will take place.

The city with 7,000 residents is expecting more than 5,000 people to take part in games, contests and, of course, eating on Saturday, generating millions for local businesses.

But City Councilwoman Felicia Hampshire said the event has much humbler beginnings.

“We just wanted for people who lived in the community to be involved. That’s how it originally got started,” Hampshire said. “All of the moms and pops who liked to cook and barbeque just come out there and see who had the best sweet potato pie or the best barbeque ribs, and that’s pretty much what we were doing.”

Hampshire said the city hopes to use festival proceeds to fuel preservation of a historically African American business district.

The festival begins Saturday at 11 a.m. with a parade down Martin Luther King Boulevard ending at Vera Francis Park. 

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.