The first Sweet Mississippi Tea Festival was held in Poplarville Oct. 18 and 19.
The two-day event united people and businesses from across Mississippi to not only celebrate the town but also tea as a Southern delicacy, according to Poplarville Mayor Rossie Creel.
“Sweet tea is a southern thing,” Creel said. “When people think of Mississippi and the South, they think of sweet tea.”
Creel said the idea to hold a festival centered around the drink came from people’s requests for a fall festival. She also said the cooler weather for the festival helped encourage attendance compared to the city’s summer festival centered around blueberries. Creel said these festivals are about building community and fellowship.
“It’s economic development. It’s [the] community. It’s everybody coming together to have a good time,” Creel said.
Vendors and artists from the surrounding area came to the event to promote their products or offer entertainment like face painting for the kids. One business, The Great Mississippi Tea Company, offered attendants a demonstration of how tea is processed Saturday morning.
Owner of the tea company Jason Alexander McDonald said this festival isn’t just about coming out and enjoying a drink; it is about supporting local businesses as well.
“When you come out to festivals or events like these, the big thing the person contributes is their support to local businesses,” McDonald said. “Shopping local is the best way to help them out.”
McDonald said his business chose to get involved with the festivities after receiving a call from the event’s organizers. He said their participation in the event helps to emphasize the local nature of something like the Sweet Mississippi Tea Festival.
“It’s all about helping out the local economy, and what we do with our tea farm gives a model for small-time farmers to save up and make enough money through the small amount of land they might have,” McDonald said. “Coming out to events like this type will help save farms and let them prosper.”
Special events were held throughout the day. On Oct. 19, seven people were chosen to partake in a sweet tea drinking contest.
The winner, Long Beach resident Sawyer Walters, said he prepared for the competition after hearing about the event, and the contest was the highlight of the festival for him.
“When I heard about this festival, I got really excited because I like sweet tea, and everywhere I go, I like to have a glass of sweet tea,” Walters said. “My family lives in this town, so when I heard about it, I realized this was an opportunity to come out and support the local businesses.”
Walters said he enjoyed the event, and the key ingredient for events like this is community support.
“The Sweet Tea Festival gives the community an opportunity to support the local businesses. Small businesses do so much for us, so being able to come here and come buy different things and look at the paintings and whatnot is really fun but beneficial at the same time,” Walters said.