Saturday the road to southern culture went through Biscuit Boulevard in Downtown Knoxville for the first annual International Biscuit Festival.
More than 5,000 people jammed the Market Square area for the festival, far exceeding expectations of organizers.
"Oh, so much more than what we expected," said John Craig with the Market Square District Association. "From first thing this morning the crowds came. We sold out of our biscuit breakfast in the first five minutes. The biscuit boulevard, the tasting area, we sold through 400 tickets in no time."
Craig said the response left some people without a biscuit in the basket.
"When you do something like this for the first time, you have no idea if people are going to show up. It is a good problem to have with such a big turnout, but I do want everyone to know that next year we are expanding the event to be bigger and better," said Craig.
Craig said the Biscuit Festival is just another ingredient in the overall recipe for success in downtown Knoxville.
"People want their town to have a heart and that's what Market Square has become. We try to keep having events that are fun, unique, and family friendly. It makes it easier for someone to come downtown and experience the other things we have to offer like a meal or a movie. Whether it is the farmer's market, Biscuit Festival, or First Friday, it just gives folks another reason to come downtown and it builds on itself."
"It is the biggest turnout I have seen downtown for any event during the daytime," said Robin Wheeler, owner of the Strawberry Fields Market. "From the looks of it, everyone did well down here. We sold a lot of Benton's Bacon, honey, jams, and had a great time."
For many in attendance, Saturday was about much more than food. Maryann Byrd, who produced the Emmy Award-winning documentary The Rise of the Southern Biscuit, said the festival is a greater reflection of the region's culture.
"The biscuit is one form of what southern hospitality is," said Byrd. "Someone comes to your house and you take the time and trouble to do something simple and inexpensive. You bake them a biscuit and give it to them. It is just what southern hospitality is."