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Hoppin' John Cook-Off is Sept. 15-17; the 15th Annual Art Grows in Durham Garden Party is Saturday, Sept. 17 from 1:00-5:00 p.m.; the 7th Annual Harvest Dinner is Thursday, Oct. 13, at 6 p.m.

Hoppin' John Cook-Off; 15th Annual Art Grows in Durham Garden Party; 7th Annual Harvest Dinner 

Shakori Hills has given Hoppin' John—a Southern mix of rice, black-eyed peas and any other ingredients one might have on hand—life beyond a side dish. Each fall, the community arts center hosts a three-day old-time and bluegrass fiddlers' convention under the dish's name (, set to take place this year Sept. 15-17. Musicians will square off for rank as the best bluegrass band, best old-time fiddler and so on. And, as is only fitting at a food-named festival, on Saturday cooks will compete to make the best batch of Hoppin' John.

Anyone is welcome to participate in the Hoppin' John Cook-Off as a cook or judge. No pre-registration is required, though a $12 ticket to Saturday's festivities is necessary to attend. Cooks should register at the main pavilion on Saturday and may start working on their dish at noon and no later than 3 p.m. "It should take you two hours to cook up a good old pot," says My Amani, Hoppin' John's organizer. Other than presoaking peas or rice, all cooking must be completed on-site. Entrants must bring all of their own ingredients, including a cook-stove or heat source.

Tasting and judging the dishes will begin at 5 p.m. To participate, festival attendees can pay $3 at the pavilion. Proceeds will contribute to the winner's prize and benefit the Shakori Hills Community ArtsCenter. For more information, visit the Hoppin' John website.

Also on Saturday, SEEDS (South Eastern Efforts Developing Sustainable Spaces;, a nonprofit community garden in Durham, will host its 15th Annual Art Grows in Durham Garden Party. SEEDS Executive Director Emily Egge calls the event the "biggest garden party of the year," adding, "it will be an opportunity for the community to share our space." Free and open to the public between 1 and 5 p.m., the event offers a chance to see and taste SEEDS' bounty. The nonprofit will sell its own brick oven-baked pizzas featuring SEEDS vegetables. In addition, Locopops and Only Burger will sell fare.

Looking ahead, SEEDS will host its 7th Annual Harvest Dinner Thursday, Oct. 13, at 6 p.m. at Bay 7 of the American Tobacco Campus. Tickets to that event are $125 and are available online for purchase.

Egge says the Harvest Dinner will feature "local food in every sense." Amy Tornquist of Watts Grocery, a former SEEDS board member, will prepare food in collaboration with the event's keynote speaker, recent James Beard Award winner Andrea Reusing of Lantern in Chapel Hill. Egge says food will be served family-style at long tables, "rather than your traditional round tables and plated dinner." She believes the latter "fits SEEDS a lot better." Beer from Fullsteam and coffee from Counter Culture will also be served at the event.

Following the keynote, Reusing and Sara Foster of Foster's Market in Durham and Chapel Hill will sell and sign copies of their recent cookbooks, Cooking in the Moment and Sara Foster's Southern Kitchen. For more information and to purchase a ticket, visit SEEDS online.


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