The start of October typically means two things in Sulphur Springs: Homecoming and the annual Hopkins County Stew contest. Tonight’s Homecoming game has been canceled but this year’s queen and princesses were crowned Thursday night. The Hopkins County Stew is still planned for later this month, but due to COVID-19 will be a little different.
This year’s stew will be drive-through. There will be 106 cook teams spread out around the walking track around the edge of Buford Park, to better social distance each site.
“There are some very exciting and neat parts of that that I want everybody to know about and take advantage of.
Only 10 others per cook site will be allowed on the contest grounds at Buford Park on Oct. 24, and they must have the designated credentials to be at the stew site.
Instead of visiting camp sites, stew may be purchased in advance through Oct. 21 by calling the Chamber of Commerce. Those calling may reserve as much stew from their favorite cooks as they ant until they are sold out.
“That means you could order a whole buffet from different stew cooks, whichever ones that you want. You go ahead and pay for it. We give you a time to drive through and pick it up. You just drive through. It’s a separate line. It’ll have cheese and crackers in with it, and they you just leave and go home and do whatever you’d like to do — kind of have your own stew contest if you want to,” Brown said.
Those who choose not to preorder their stew may drive through on Saturday, Oct. 24, and choose between chicken or beef stew or even request both. However, those waiting to purchase stew until they drive through won’t be able to request from specific stew cooks.
“We’ve never offered it before and I kind of doubt we’re going to offer it again. It’s a great opportunity for all of the cooks you’ve wanted to try. Go ahead and call up here and order them up. The only one we’ve had sell out so far is Don Sapaugh, so you can’t get Don Sapaugh stew and Steve Littlefield is almost sold out, but we still have some other ones we can offer. Order up your own buffet of stew. It’s a great thing to do,” Brown said.
Each purchase will be $10 for a quart of stew. Because this is a drive-through event for the public, there will be no bowls available for purchase on site. Each stew site has been allowed to purchase up to 10 tickets; those 10 people will have bowls and those will be the only bowls available that day. Those are also the only people, other than judges and cook team, allowed to on the grounds.
Brown said the limit of 10 follows the Governor’s previous order limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people, which the stew contest must follow. After numerous meetings with city and county officials, the current plan is the one agreed on, with a limit of 1,000 people one the grounds with cooks. The people selected to be on site with the cooks will be able to walk around and have a normal stew day, Brown explained.
The stew sites have been moved to the outside of the sidewalk on both the north and south sides of Buford Park, with one site in between each camp stew site, spanning 14-acres from the Skate Park to just south of the football stadium.
Awards this year will be announced virtually, eliminating the number of people who would gather closely for the announcements of awards. A Facebook Live will be used to announce winners. Chamber volunteers will deliver checks to the stew cooks.
“It’s going to be different. Every thing’s going to look a little different. That’s the part that’s kind of super disappointing to me, I think, is the awards ceremony. It will still be good and it should be a lot of fun,” Brown said.
Stew t-shirts may also be purchased from the Chamber of Commerce. The “Stew You,” Brown acknowledged, was a little aggressive, born out of frustration about COVID-19 wrecking havoc on all large events that have occurred in 2020.
“This is the first large event that’s been kind of able to happen and it’s super modified. It’s not at all like we want it to be but we are very thankful we are able to offer anything at all. So I hope that Hopkins County will find a way to drive through and get their stew, just find a way to enjoy the day,” Brown said.
Call the Chamber at 903-885-6515 to pre-order stew, purchase a t-shirt or for more information.