by Laura Locke
Every small town seems to have its own quirky celebrations and fairs. I’ve been to my share of Strawberry Festivals, May Days, rodeos, Founders Days, and Floral Fests. Henderson is no exception – our delicious West Tennessee version of the beloved county fair is the Chester County Barbecue Festival, held annually in September. For four glorious autumn days Main Street is blocked off and the enticing scent of open-pit roasted pork wafts through downtown Henderson, the self-proclaimed “whole hog barbecue capitol of the world”.
As the name might suggest, the best part of the Barbecue Festival (at least to a food lover like me) is the food. Just a few steps from Freed-Hardeman’s campus, vendors offer scrumptious treats that will tempt even the most hard-core dieter to take a cheat day: funnel cake, roasted corn, turkey legs, fried oreos, and, of course, the signature barbeque pork sandwich with beans and slaw. Thousands will flock to town over the weekend, and the festival has been so popular for the last few years that they’ve actually sold out of barbeque on the last night of the fair long before the weekend’s festivities actually wrapped up.
Beyond the food, the Barbeque Festival offers a variety of activities for visitors of all ages. Crafters and artisans set up booths displaying their wares, while local talent provides musical entertainment. Children (and big kids at heart) love the petting zoo. And what county festival would be complete without some bouncy houses, a mechanical bull, and fair rides?
Best of all, proceeds support the Chester County Chamber of Commerce, which hosts this and other fun community events throughout the year such as Arts in the Alley and the annual Christmas Parade.