Get fired up at Granville County festivals
By Karen Olson House
Looking for a little spice to your life? Look no further than the 8th Annual Hot Sauce Contest in historic Oxford, where you can sample concoctions ranging from flavorfully mild to tongue-searing madness.
This increasingly popular festival, held the second Saturday in September, has swelled to a major downtown event that attracted more than 12,000 visitors in 2013.
This year, it promises again to draw fun-loving folks who relish the chance to taste and purchase a variety of hot sauces, as well as barbecue sauces, rubs, wines, brews and specialty foods. More than 70 vendors take part, with all products made in North Carolina.
Eats as feats
Attendees get a big kick out of watching the brave souls in the pepper contest. The contestants must eat all (except the caps) of a large cayenne pepper, red fresno pepper, jalepeno pepper, serrano chile and, finally, an orange habenero (one of the hottest peppers in the world). And if there's still two or more standing, they must down more habeneros (and keep 'em down) until there's one clear champ.
Regarding the barbecue sauce contests, any North Carolinian worth his or her salt knows that the mere mention of barbecue can invoke fire-and-brimstone debate. The organizers are no fools and include prizes for mustard-style, vinegar-based and tomato-based sauces.
Talented artist Dan Nelson will illustrate the festival live on canvas, and there are kids activities, free horse and carriage rides, a car show, plant sale and live music by two bands, Streamline and Big Love. The festival is Saturday, Sept. 13. from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (919-691-3590 or nchotsaucecontest.com)
If you can't make it, you can still buy N.C. hot sauces, beers and wines year-round at Stovall's Gifts. Another Oxford shopping destination, Remember When Antiques & Collectibles, sells garden and home décor as well as North Carolina sauces, ciders, salsas, honey and jams.
Touted Oxford eateries include Sunrise Biscuits, Milano's (Italian and Greek), Harvest Restaurant (locally sourced fare) and the recently opened Main St Oasis.
The well-designed Granville History Museum's exhibits include a display on busting up moonshine stills and an illuminating video. Steps away, Harris Exhibit Hall presents rotating and traveling exhibits and a nice gift shop (919-693-9706 or granvillemuseumnc.org).
There's also George C. Shaw Museum, which features this influential African-American educator (919-690-8055 or shawmuseum.com), and the Sallie Mae Ligon Museum, which details the history of North Carolina's oldest operating residential home for children (919-603-3906 or mhc-oxford.org).