Knoxville is a small city with big ideas. It’s scruffy and innovative. It’s green and growing. It’s friendly and quaint. It’s bustling and booming.
There is so much to love about Knoxville but the thing I love the most about the slowly opening door from Knoxville to the outside world? The International Biscuit Festival.
No, seriously. It’s a festival to celebrate biscuitry and yes, it’s international. Because we fancy like that.
Knoxville biscuit-lovers first united to celebrate the southern pastry in 2009 in an intimate gathering. Soon it was clear there was a knead (yep, dough puns) to expand the festival and by 2012, the festival had risen (more puns) to include the Southern Food Writers Conference. There is a (mostly) friendly competition for best biscuit, a biscuit queen pageant, a songwriting competition, and a lot more! Even though true biscuit lovers celebrate all year, the festival is jammed into just a few days from May 18-20.
A fancy Biscuit Bash is hosted on May 19 at the Standard. The cost for this event is high but worth it! It’s a good date option and not really a great even for kids.
The biscuit bazaar, where the real magic happens, opens on May 20 at 9am and ends around 2pm. Tickets for Biscuit Boulevard are $15 each so if you want to sample five of the best of the best and cast your vote for your favorite, get ’em while they’re hot here. Tickets went on sale March 15 and can also be purchased on sight.
If it’s your first time on Biscuit Boulevard, here are a few tips from an experienced biscuiteer:
Pack water. Although there are dozens of vendors lining the streets and you can purchase a beverage, it’s too expensive on what always turns out to be a very warm day in May. If you have littles or a four-legged friend, do yourself a favor and take plenty of water!
It’s ok, take the stroller. Yes, you’ll get looks from some and maybe the occasional passive aggressive comment such as “Not exactly the place I would have brought a stroller”* but it’s worth it to have safe space around your kids in a crowd. Plus you’ll have extra storage for all your farmers market finds!
*Actual comment overheard (received) a few years ago on Biscuit Boulevard
Get two tickets if you go as a family. One ticket gets the holder any choice of five biscuits in the competition. Getting two tickets means you get to sample ten total biscuits or get multiples of one you really like.
Get there early.* Downtown is not as bad as it used to be in terms of parking but for events this size, it’s just not enough. So if you don’t want to be trekking half the morning from your spot in Outer Mongolia, get there early.
*The crowd gets pretty thick by 10 or 11 so if you have kids with anxiety or sensory issues, take that into consideration. Or if you are introverted and would rather not hobknob with 10,000 strangers…
Talk to the vendors. One of the best parts of events like the International Biscuit Festival and the farmers market is interacting with artisans and farmers in the community. To continued to make these downtown events a bright spot for the vendors and the farmers, say “hello” and ask them more about what they do. Notice I didn’t say ask them more about what they sell. The latter is fine if you’re interested in the products but these folks are happy to just talk about what they do! But if you want to give up your money for good, here’s a great way to do it!