Uniquely Arkansas – Purple hull? Yes, peas!



Courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism

A proud “peas” of southwest Arkansas culture and history was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic — Emerson’s annual PurpleHull Pea Festival and World Championship Rotary Tiller Race.

Though it will be shorter in duration, the 2021 festival (Emerson’s 31st) will take place this summer — come “hull” or high water. Though traditionally a two-day event held the last Friday and Saturday in June, this year’s pea party will be a one-day celebration on Saturday, June 26. 

Festival chairwoman Hunter Nix lives in Willisville, about 30 miles north, but her father is from Emerson. She says about the Southern palate-pleaser: “I grew up eating them, shelling them, you name it.” 

She adds, “I just think it’s a unique pea. A lot of people don’t grow it. And if you like black-eyed peas, you’ll like purple hull peas, because it’s almost like a richer flavor. It’s just something unique and pretty.” And they’re even craftable. “You can make anything out of the hulls or the pea itself.”

Expect food-centered fun, including a pea-shelling contest, purple hull pea meals, riblet meals and food vendors. Also featured will be arts and crafts, tractor exhibitions, music and fireworks. 

And of course, there’s the World Championship Rotary Tiller Race, as the website describes: “Souped-up garden tillers from near and far come to compete in the world’s premiere tiller racing event.”

It continues: “There simply is no other event like it. Unique among motor sports, we like to say it is the highlight of the tiller racing season.

“Of course, to the best of our knowledge, our one-day event is the tiller racing season.”

For more information, visit the festival’s Facebook page, facebook.com/purplehull. And be sure to check out purplehull.com, where you can find winning “Reci-peas.”

Uniquely Arkansas is a recurring spotlight on something special in our state. Have a fun suggestion for a feature? Email jennifer.cia@aeci.com.