Terrific turnout, tasty taters: 23rd annual Sweet Tater Festival one for the record books

Wednesday the Camel throws back a cold Gatorade Sunday at the 23rd annual Sweet Tater Festival at Smith Lake Park. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The 23rd Annual Sweet Tater Festival took over Smith Lake Park for the Labor Day weekend. Huge crowds came out to celebrate all things sweet tater. Pies, fries and even ice cream made from Cullman’s famous sweet potatoes were available from the many food vendors participating in the yearly celebration. 

A sea of unique arts and crafts vendors were enjoying the large crowds. Many families brought their dogs, and one pet goat, for the end-of-summer event. The Sunday crowd was treated to a high-energy performance by the Clog Wild Cloggers, while kids played on the many inflatables. 

Feathered Friends Cockatoo and Horse Sanctuary brought some adorable friends from its home in Center, Alabama. The group offered horse and pony rides as well as a petting zoo with Wednesday the Camel, Bucky the Sheep and Tony the Pony, to name a few. 

University of Alabama legend and former Super Bowl champion with the Dallas Cowboys, Sherman Williams, was enjoying the weekend and meeting with fans. He is currently working hard with the Palmer-Williams Group, a nonprofit organization he formed with friend and fellow Bama and NFL great David Palmer, helping at-risk youth in the Mobile area. 

Sachmo’s BBQ out of Bremen, Augusta’s Sports Grill and The Wacked Out Weiner were just a few of the many food vendors. Sachmo’s chose to serve sweet potato fries, in keeping with the spirit of the festival.

Sachmo’s BBQ owner Tom Christensen said, “There are sweets, but we wanted to incorporate the sweet potato into the main menu.”

The two-day festival drew an even larger crowd Monday, with the annual favorite Sweet Tater Car Show and the traditional golf cart parade. The afternoon heat did not deter the crowd from having a fantastic time with family and friends. 

The Yellow Dandies entertained from the main stage, playing comical bluegrass that created the perfect backdrop to this wonderful Southern festival.

Bailey Hill, singer with the Yellow Dandies, enjoyed the crowd, saying, “We mostly play smaller venues in Birmingham, but we really appreciate the opportunity to play here. The crowd was great, and we definitely had a great time.”

Hill, along with bandmates Ben Hood and Ryan Brown, hope to have more opportunities to play their unique style of music in Cullman soon. Their EP, “Warning Shot,” is available now. 

Cullman County Parks and Recreation Director Doug Davenport reported that this year’s festival saw record-setting crowds and vendor participation.

“Today’s crowd is bigger than Sunday’s probably because of the car show,” he said Monday afternoon. “We had over 100 cars register this year. We also sold out of sweet potato pie and baked sweet potatoes.” 

The money raised from the Sweet Tater Festival will help with maintenance and improvements to Smith Lake Park and other county parks.

Davenport added, “These events are a way to not have to ask the County for more of the taxpayers’ money, while still being able to maintain great parks.”

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Christy Perry