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Home News-Telegram News New cooking sites at Buford Park being assigned Monday; some people may begin lining up at noon for 5 p.m. sign-up

New cooking sites at Buford Park being assigned Monday; some people may begin lining up at noon for 5 p.m. sign-up

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It’s a good thing the Chamber of Commerce board of directors hired a woman of integrity to be the civic organization’s executive president. Otherwise, Meredith Caddell could’ve pocketed a tidy sum under the table Friday while mapping out the sites for this year’s World Champion Hopkins County Stew Contest.

“I’ve had quite a few people offer me bribes,” said Caddell with a grin as she prepared to mark off the 45th of some 175 potential stew sites on the walking track at Buford Park.

But Caddell’s keeping it all above-board as she prepares to move the county’s biggest annual event from the grounds around the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center to the city park.

One of the biggest changeovers of all will begin at 5 p.m. this coming Monday, June 20, when the first of the new cooking sites will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.

The registration session is the first chance cooking teams get to lay claim to a preferred site. In the past, teams returning to compete had a certian amount of time to reserve the site again. Sign-up will be held at a table set up alongside the walking track that goes around Kids Kingdom on the north side of Buford Park. Roped-off lanes leading to the table will be used to control the foot traffic to and from the registration area.

Cooking team representatives should have their sign-up sheets filled out, have a check or money order for the entry fee (no cash), and have a couple of top choices for the site they want.

Some cooks are hoping to get a leg up on the competition to choose their favorite site.

“A few people told me they planned to camp out overnight Sunday to be first in line, but you can’t camp overnight in a city park,” Caddell explained.

She did say she would put up the registration table sometime Monday morning. She promised the table would be up at noon Monday for the 5 p.m. sign-up start.

“They can wait  in line if they want to, but they’ll have to sit in line until 5 p.m.,” the Chamber director said, adding that Monday’s registration will go on even in the event of rain.

“I’ll just put up my blue tent,” she said.

Caddell also said she would be available during the day to answer any questions people have.

Caddell, who has praised Sulphur Springs City Manager Marc Maxwell and city staff members who have helped out, also said the park should be in pristine condition when cooking teams start setting up for the Sept. 20 contest.

“I’ve talked to City Parks Director Kevin McCarty, and everything will be picked up, cleaned up and trimmed up,” Caddell said. She also said Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap has offered the use of a county work crew if needed to make sure Buford Park is in “tip-top condition.”

The move from the Civic Center grounds to the park makes sense for a number of reasons. For one, the Chamber’s offices are no longer located on the property where the stew contest was traditionally held. Also, the Fall Festival Board wanted more room for Saturday’s events and exhibitions at the Civic Center and Sulphur Springs High School, which in recent years have included dozens of arts and crafts vendors as well as the Lone Star Heritage Quilt Guild’s quilt show and an antique tractor pull. This year there is also an event at the equine pavilion.

The number of competing teams at the stew contest also grew to about 135 in 2008, a record number that made walking through the stew grounds dicey, at best.

Buford Park offers two more attractive advantages — three times the space, and more shade.

In the old location, there were about 140 maximum cooking sites, all 10 feet long by 10 feet wide, or 100 square feet. On the Saturday of the contest, when as many as 10,000 people showed up, elbow room came at a premium.

The new stew sites will be almost three times as big as the old ones. They will be 15 feet in width and generally be 20 feet deep for a total area of 300 square feet.

“People won’t be encroaching on each other,” Caddell said.

A handful of sites won’t be the full 20 feet, Caddell added, but those sites will also be prime parking locations, she added. All the cooking areas will set back five feet from the walking track that circles Kids Kingdom.

And the location should be much more comfortable when the sun comes out — of the approximately 175 sites, only about 15 don’t have a tree for shade.

The expanded size of the sites also means more room to get creative with campsite designs. In addition to prizes for the best stew, judges also choose the best campsites for cash awards.

One other advantage of the park is the availability of parking spaces. In addition to the parking spots available in Buford Park, vehicles can also be left at the Gerald Prim Stadium lot, and Central Baptist Church has offered the use of its parking lots for Friday night and Saturday.

“This is going to be the greatest weekend in Hopkins County,” Caddell said. “We want this to be the most successful Fall Festival ever, and the most successful stew contest.”





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