The essence of food, fun, friends and family filled the air as Main Street Greenville’s 2021 Delta Hot Tamale Festival commenced on Saturday.
Saying the festival was “well attended” may be putting it modestly and quite possibly an understatement.
Main Street Greenville CEO Daniel Boggs said that while a true economic impact study was not conducted in light of the pandemic, nor a clear calculation made, he was able to gauge attendance numbers based on the number of reunion tents that were erected compared to past numbers.
“I did see it coming, but it was later, maybe two or three weeks out before the festival,” Boggs said. “We had 27 tents this year and last time we had 19 or 20.”
He noted the Hot Tamale Fest has had a lot of people to sign up for reunion tents over the years, but based on the number of tents and what he observed, Saturday’s attendance was the most he has seen in all 10 years.
Boggs added the 2019 Delta Hot Tamale Festival’s attendance was “just a few shy” of 20,000 people, but he’s heard from various sources and an unofficial report that Saturday’s attendance was possibly north of 25,000, which was Main Street Greenville’s goal.
Crowned as the 2021 Miss Delta Hot Tamale Queen was Sara Peyton Edwards — a soon to be 17-year-old student at Bayou Academy in Cleveland.
“I’m just happy to be here at the Hot Tamale Festival today and just representing Washington County as well as the whole Mississippi Delta,” she said cheerfully. “I love hot tamales and a girl’s dream is to dress up as a hot tamale, so here I am in my hot tamale dress!”
Edwards’ dress featured a shiny, turquoise upper bodice and attached floor-length cape adorned with multi-colored flowers around her shoulders and waist, while the lower bodice was made up of tamale wrappers that had ends dyed in turquoise to accentuate her look.
No detail went unconsidered right down to her accessories as she donned a pair of turquoise-colored, jewel earrings that dazzled in the Delta sunlight.
Edwards said her mom was the one who helped her pull her home-run of a Delta Hot Tamale Pageant look together.
“I’m really good at arts and crafts but it did take a good eight months and making the flowers was very interesting. We had a lot of fails, but it ended up turning out great,” she said of designing her dress.
On being crowned as Hot Tamale Queen, Edwards said, “Being crowned means a lot, I’m happy to be representing the Mississippi Delta.”
On the less glamorous side of the Delta Hot Tamale festival, although some may say the bragging rights are equally satisfying, was the Hot Tamale Eating Contest.
Per competition rules, contestants were to eat as many of the two dozen tamales as they could in five minutes for a grand prize of $100.
The winner, who scarfed down a total of 16 tamales, was 2019 returning champion Benton Brown from Marion, Arkansas.
The first runner up was Baron Eskine of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who was just one tamale shy of tying with Brown.
And, the second runner up was Greenville’s own Keith Gann who put away a total of 14 tamales.
Winning the $500 award for Grand Champion along with Best Presentation in the Tamale Cooking Contest was The Hot Tamale Shakk.
In the category of “Home Meats Tamales,” Wanda’s World Famous Hot Tamales placed fifth; Las Comrades #1 placed fourth; Las Comrades #2 placed third; Las Comrades #3 placed second; and Mr. Hot Tee-Males placed first.
In the category of “Commercial Meats Tamales,” CC’s Hot Tamales of Memphis #1 placed fifth; CC’s Hot Tamales and Barbecue of Memphis placed fourth; Sho Nuff Hot Tamales placed third; CC’s Hot Tamales of Memphis #2 placed second; and The Tamale Shakk placed first.
In the category of “Other Tamales,” the Lost Cat Tamale Company placed third; Katie’s Kitchen placed second; and CC’s Hot Tamales and Barbecue placed first.
When asked what the secret was to her grand prize winning tamales, The Tamale Shakk co-owner Aurelia Lockett said, “There’s no secret, just hard, dedicated work.”