COOLFEST draws crowd downtown

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Local farmers sold fresh, Cullman-grown produce on Thursday at COOLFEST. (W.C. Mann for The Tribune)

CULLMAN – On a warm Thursday afternoon, Cullmanites came downtown for the North Alabama Agriplex’s first COOLFEST.  Folks shopped for locally-grown produce from area farmers and handmade goods from local crafters, bought frozen treats from an old-fashioned ice cream truck, listened to live music by Seed-Harvest Music Academy on the street, and sampled grilled peaches and peppers from the Agriplex and Alabama Farm Credit.  When they were ready for something a little cooler, they went inside Cullman Florist and Consign & Design for gifts and original art by Cullman artist Jack Tupper, or into 412 Public House for dinner or drinks. Throughout the event, hot visitors retreated into Christ Lutheran Church for traditional instrumental music from Craig Mann, storytelling by Sharon Drake and shaped-note singing by the folks who host Cullman’s annual courthouse singing convention.

Hot weather probably kept the crowd down, but farmers reported good numbers for produce sales, and event coordinator Ben Johnson South reported to The Tribune that sales of original art had been going well, since even before Thursday afternoon. 412 Public House remained full from late afternoon into the evening.

Johnson South said, “I think it went great!  We had a great turnout with the kids that were here from Seed-Harvest Music Academy: their parents were coming, their grandparents were coming, so that always adds to the crowd.  The roots music that was in the fellowship hall at Christ Lutheran was my personal favorite thing, I think, to do because the dulcimer and the banjo, and then Sacred Harp and all that just sort of took you back 200 years, sort of like Alabama’s Bicentennial.  And it was taking you to places that the North Alabama Agriplex celebrates regularly.

“And that’s what we were trying to do is to remind people what the Agriplex mission is.  And we did a lot of that. We had six farmers here tonight in our farmers’ market and beautiful produce that was all Cullman-grown.  We had the grilling that was done with Alabama Farm Credit. They grilled peaches, and a lot of people came by and said, ‘I’ve lived with peaches all my life, and I’ve never had ones that were grilled, and they were delicious.’  And then 412 Public House: Chef Rico is finding inventive ways to use Cullman-grown produce, vegetables and fruit. And that’s a lot of what we wanted to do, too, is just celebrate that a local chef celebrates local-grown stuff.”

Agriplex Director Rachel Dawsey added, “I thought it was good.  We didn’t know what to expect. The weather cooperated; it was nice and hot!  There were a lot of (passersby) who stopped by to see what was going on. The music brought in crowds, the families that were with those, and I think we had a successful event.”

For more on the North Alabama Agriplex, including upcoming events, visit http://agriplex.org.

For more on the event hosts, visit www.412pub.com, www.cullmanflorist.com, and www.christlutherancullman.org and www.facebook.com/consignanddesigncullman/.

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