Gettin' gritty. Photo: National Grits Festival.
In 2002, Grits was made the official state prepared food of Georgia. A year later, the tiny town of Warwick was declared “Grits Capital of the World” by governor Sonny Perdue. The town of about 500 celebrates its grits heritage and invites the world to join in the fun with a day-long festival, the National Grits Festival, held mid-April of every year.
Grits – it can be plural or singular in sentence construction – is a staple in southern diets, first introduced to European settlers by Native Americans and made from ground corn and similar to other corn-based foods such as polenta, farina, or porridge. Warwick’s connection to the food is based on its location: the town is close to some of Georgia’s largest corn-producing areas.
The festival's early birds may enjoy a hearty breakfast of grits, sausage, eggs, biscuits, and juice or coffee. Breakfast can be worked off by strolling the arts and crafts exhibits or visiting shops on the town square. Those still hungry for more grits may want to consider signing up for the grits eating contest or sampling grits recipes at the grits cook-off.
Other events include a corn shelling contest, live entertainment, parade, and the chance to meet “Miss Grits” and all the winners of the festival’s annual beauty pageant.
Arguably the festival’s favorite event is rolling in the Quaker® Grits Pit. Contestants vie for prizes by jumping in and rolling around in a giant pit of cooked grits to gain weight from the grits attached to clothes and bodies. Observers of this contest have been known to get a little “gritty” themselves.
Warwick is southwest of Cordele, at the south end of Lake Blackshear, near the intersection of GA 300 and GA 313. The National Grits Festival is held on the town square. Admission is free with activities appealing to all ages.