Suwannee Valley Times is distributed into the following cities and towns: Lake City, Live Oak, Madison, Branford, Dowling Park, Falmouth, Lee, Wellborn, Jasper, White Springs, Fort White, High Springs and Alachua

Cornbread Festival grows in popularity

The cornbread and chili tasting tent stayed full as hungry fans enjoyed the wide array of special recipes. -SVT Photos by Tami Stevenson

L-R McAlpin Community Association members Jimmy Shepherd, Derenda Shepherd, Suwannee County Commissioner Leo Mobley D4 and Chuckwagon. Moses Clepper, is from Live Oak. -SVT Photo

More pics below–

By Tami Stevenson

The 3rd Annual Wellborn Cornbread Festival in Andrews Square saw great weather and drew hundreds of people to the festivities. The festival is growing from its humble beginnings, being rained out along with frigid temperatures their first year. They had 59 vendor booths this year, nine more than last year, and look forward to continuing to grow into next year.

This year, they changed how they judge their chili and cornbread. Whoever made the cornbread or chili stood behind it and dished it out this year. That way they could tell taste testers the ingredients, if they were interested, why their dish is unique and why it’s better than the other competition. They have eliminated the final judges and have turned it over to the public.

Also new this year, after their famous blueberry pancake breakfast, they decided to offer sausage from Mobley’s Custom Cuts in McAlpin along with hotdogs, chips and a drink, after the breakfasts.

The proceeds for the Cornbread Festival go to the Wellborn Community Association (WCA). They use that money to help patch roofs and floors, help the elderly, help buy medications, school supplies, etc. for Suwannee County residents. In order to accomplish this they need to make the Cornbread and Blueberry Festivals a success.
“When the money runs out, we have to stop,” said WCA member and festival organizer Annita Leonard. In addition to her dedication to the WCA, Leonard has taken on Toys for Tots for Suwannee County. See the sister article about Toys for Tots.

Ivey Weatherspoon, from Live Oak manned the very popular Turd Toss game. -SVT Photo

Along with the cornbread and chili competitions, the cornhole tournaments, live music, vendors and the promise of an overall good time, a popular free game they offered for kids again this year was the Turd Toss. Leonard said they saw this game a couple years ago at another festival and it was very popular. Participants try to toss a brown bean bag into a toilet and receive tootsie rolls when they make it. It was very popular with kids again this year. Ivey Weatherspoon, from Live Oak, did a great job manning the game.

McAlpin Community Center representatives were there to support Chuckwagon (William Anderson) and enjoy each others’ company sitting around the campfire where Chuckwagon, also of McAlpin, made his cornbread and chili for the competition over the open fire. He placed second for his chili and third for his cornbread, so his methods (and recipes) are award-winning!

Side note: Wellborn and McAlpin are the only community associations left in Suwannee County.

Leonard said, “Sheriff Sam St. John has been wonderful!” She added, “None of this could have happened without the support of the Sheriff’s Office.”
St. John said they enjoy helping out and having a booth at the Cornbread Festival and getting the word out.

Suwannee County Sheriff Sam St. John with event organizer Annita Leonard. -SVT Photo

“Not just for my campaign (he is running for sheriff again in the 2024 election), but we get to meet the people, the people get to meet us. Sometimes they stop at the booth with a problem. We put our heads together and work to resolve the issue for them, so it’s good all the way around,” said St. John.

Commander Mike Poreda from Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Chapter 126, along with wife, Carol Poreda. -SVT Photo

The Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Chapter 126, had a booth this year. Commander Mike Poreda, along with his wife, Carol were there for a forget-me-not drive. The little flowers that represent the disabled American Veterans. Poreda said they primarily focus on the disabled veteran to meet their needs and to ensure they receive the benefits they are entitled to. They also work with the Domiciliary in Lake City.

Chapter 126 was inactive for a number of years, but Poreda has stepped up as the commander and says they are a small organization but they are growing.

“We’re trying to be more active within the community so people can see who we are and what we do and how we can help our veterans.”
They will have a float in the Veterans Day Parade in Live Oak.

Kin Weaver and Annita Leonard -SVT Photo

Harry (Kin) Weaver, Jr. is the Farm Share organizer for Suwannee County. He is also running for sheriff in 2024. Earlier this month they provided six different locations in Suwannee County to distribute the food. Weaver said twenty-four pallets of food were delivered for Suwannee County. The food came out of Farm Share in Tallahassee. They distributed it behind the Methodist Church in Live Oak, Friendship Baptist of Live Oak, Suwannee Station Baptist Church of Live Oak, First Baptist Church of Dowling Park, Wellborn Community Assoc. and the McAlpin Community Assoc.

“We divided the food out equally amongst the entities and fed 150 families. They all did a fantastic job. It was very successful.” said Weaver. He added they plan to distribute more food in late winter or early spring.

One interesting booth at the Cornbread Festival was not selling anything. Suwannee County residents Lauren Jorgensen and Frank Tobias, along with their daughter, Katharine Priegues, set up a booth called “Beyond Organic.” They specialize in regenerative farming and were there to help create awareness about better farming practices for a healthier America. They had so many interesting things to say about the topic that it warrants a story on its own one day in the near future.

On the topic of cows producing methane gas, Frank Tobias said cattle do not produce methane unless they’re confined where their manure is all in one place and they are fed the wrong diet. The methane comes from the feed lots. “So if you let a cow eat grass and they are pastured instead of confined, they actually produce more omega 3’s in their meat and in their milk.”

Katharine Priegues (right) from “Beyond Organic” holds a book called Dirt to Soil while her mother, Lauren Jorgensen, talks with visitors to their booth. -SVT Photo

Katharine Priegues is a new environmental lawyer, and licensed in Virginia. She is currently working as a law clerk until her Florida license goes through and is very committed to spreading awareness about regenerative farming. She said they don’t till their soil. According to Priegues, untilled soil is alive and full of nutrients, the plants that are produced have more flavor and are much healthier as well.

They offered some resources for those interested in learning more.,
and more. They added that customers can buy WOS (WhiteOakPastures) ground beef at Publix.

Inside the "Just Christmas" building, it was a hand-made Christmas by Patricia DeWitt. -SVT Photo


Inside the “Just Christmas” building was Patricia DeWitt, selling hundreds of hand-made Christmas trees, stockings, ornaments, etc. Everything was handmade.

WCA President Mayso Martin said about the Cornbread Festival, “We’re in the process of growing. This year we’re trying out the sausage and the hot dogs. Next year it might be something else.”

Martin, along with Leonard and the entire WCA would like to thank the community and volunteers for their support and participation in this worthwhile and fun fall event.

Cornbread Winners

First - Carolyn Curtight  $300
Second - Diana Salomon $150
Third - William (Chuckwagon) Anderson $50

Chili Winners

First - Devon Teiser $300
Second - Willian (Chuckwagon) Anderson $150
Third - Johnathan Lucas $50

Cornhole Novelist

First - Sean Brock and Mia Cody $300
Second - Brian Plummer and Adam Spriull  $150
Third - Jay Way and Sheena Way $50   

Competitive Cornhole 

First - Curt Elk and Johnathan Ulsh $500
Second - Andrew Burge and Amanda Burge $300
No third place

Shoppers at the 3rd Annual Cornbread Festival at Andrews Square in Wellborn. -SVT Photo

Mark, the human scarecrow was back again this year. He enjoyed holding perfectly still, then coming alive when unsuspecting visitors got close! “I have more fun than anybody!” -SVT Photo