MoonPie festival serves up treats, history in Newport

11:00 PM, May 26, 2012   |    comments
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Cocke County residents indulged in a treat with a special meaning to the area during a new festival Saturday afternoon.

This year marked the county's first MoonPie festival.  It wanted to honor the MoonPie's creator, Earl Mitchell, who was from Cocke County.

The festival took place at the Cocke County Fairgrounds.  More than one-hundred people braved heat in excess of 90 degrees to attend the event.

"We did this event to let more people know about the history [of the Earl Mitchell]," said Cocke County Partnership President Don Hurst.

He said Mitchell created the MoonPie when he learned miners were looking for a treat to bring with them into mines.  He said a miner told Mitchell to make a treat as big as the moon and soon thereafter the MoonPie was born.

Highlights of the festival included the cutting of the world's largest moonpie and a moonpie eating competition.  Keith France won the competition by consuming nine moonpies in three minutes.

Anna Pratt, the granddaughter of Earl Mitchell, said she was surprised by the enthusiam of the crowd.

"So many people showed up," she said.

Ron Dickson, the author of "The Great MoonPie Handbook", said he was touched when he learned Cocke County residents shared similar experiences about the treat.

"It was amazing, it was very emotional to me," Dickson said.

The MoonPie festival comes one year after another Cocke County Festival, the Ramp Festival, met its end.  The Ramp Festival, which had been around since 1954, honored the onion-like vegetable that grows in the mountains.  Hurst said, at its peak, the Ramp Festival attracted 40,000 people.

He said, as of right now, the Cocke County Partnership is not looking to make money off the MoonPie festival.  He said the Cocke County Partnership is just looking at the festival as a way to show the region what the county has to offer.

"It won't be about money this year. it's about enhancing our [Cocke County] brand," he said.

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