Have any good grits recipes? I do, dump 23 cases of instant mix into a pool of cold water and add one adult male or female layered in sweat pants and duct tape. Get them to flop around and roll in the mix for 10 seconds and pull them out. Tasty? No. Very funny? Yes.
I got this recipe after visiting St. George this past weekend for the 24th World Grits Festival. The festival, which attracts about 30,000 people over three days, is popular for one of the craziest events I have ever seen-- rolling in the grits.
First you may ask, why does St. George have a world grits festival? According to event organizer Roger Gaither, the city consumes the most grits per capita of anywhere else in the world. He said the event is not just a celebration of grits but a reason for everyone to get together.
At the festival, everyone can taste grits samples, buy bags of grit mix, watch as they grind grits and eat grits dinners. Basically, if you like grits, you should have been in St. George.
Like other festivals I have attended this year, the world grits festival has vendors and food and music. The similarities stop at the inflatable pool sitting on a platform. On that platform Phillip Ranck has been mixing his special grits recipe for 11 years. Armed with mix, water and a paddle, he makes about 450 lbs. of grits to be used in the rolling competition.
Ranck stands over his creation adding just the right amount of water and mix, the adults just add themselves later. The contestants jump into the pool for the count of 10 and roll around trying to climb out with the most grits on them. They are weighed on a scale before and after exiting the pool and the winner receives a cash prize.
Everyone has a different reason for immersing themselves into a pool of grits. June Griggs, 71, for example, is an adventurous first timer and likes trying new things. Chaz Easterling, who has been rolling in the grits since he was 7, does it for the prize money.
Before the start of the event, competitors add layers of cotton clothing and duct tape. The clothing absorbs the grits while the tape keeps the mushy mix from oozing from the sleeves and pant legs. They all have their own strategy but mostly everyone rolls in and stuffs grits in their clothing as quickly as possible.
Ned Barry, who has been competing for 23 years, wouldn't give up his strategy but looked to be wearing multiple layers including a hooded sweatshirt turned backwards so the hood could be used for scooping the grits into his shirts.
As the contestants got ready, the announcer whipped the crowd into a frenzy with free stuff. Everyone was so excited to get a free shirt or towel you would have thought they were handing out the latest video game. People screaming, kids frantically waving their hands in the air-- all for a shirt with a Quaker Instant Grits logo.
Soon contestants were diving and rolling as they covered themselves head to toe in grits. Grits were everywhere-- on the contestants, the crowd, my camera-- it was messy.
As soon as they were finished in the pool they rushed to a scale to see how much weight they gained. The winner, Chaz Easterling, stepped out of the pool 42 lbs. heavier. Talk about packing on the pounds.
"The water is freezing," Donald Parrish said shivering after climbing out of the pool. McEnteer said it felt like hanging out in a bucket of mud and enjoyed the feeling. She illustrated the point by rubbing the grits all over her face, saying it was exfoliating her skin.
For those not into the healing effects of grits, the cleaning process began right after jumping off of the scales. They lined up to be sprayed by a hose followed by peeling off layer after layer to get rid of the grits. Even after the bath, many had grits in their hair, ears and up the nose.
Grits rolling was not the only competition at the festival. Throughout the weekend, contestants pushed wheelbarrows full of corn, threw corn into baskets, shucked corn and ate large amounts of grits. Basically, if they could incorporate corn or grits into the scenario, it was a competition.
Others roamed Parler Ave. shopping, eating and hopping on rides at the carnival. Yes, there were other types of food to be had at the festival and no they did not have recipes that included large adults covered in sweat pants and duct tape.
One patron I found, Jesalyn Horner, had her dog under one arm and a box of grits under the other. She said she loves events like this and had a blast at the grits rolling even though she and her dog, Capers, had been completely covered in grits during the rolling competition.
Griggs, the 71 year old first timer, came out of the pool carrying 16 lbs. of grits and said she would have liked to have done better but said it was fun competing her first and probably last time at the festival.
After watching contestants freeze while they attempted to wash grits out of their ears, hair and other crevices, Griggs is one grits rolling competition up on me and that is how it will stay.
Paul Zoeller is a freelance photographer new to the area. Do you have an idea for a new blog or a question about a current blog? If you do contact Zoeller at firstname.lastname@example.org.