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Much to look forward to at Kenan’s Mill fest

Since taking over as chairman of Kenan’s Mill last year, Ken Smith has envisioned its Fall Festival offering something for everyone.

The event does a lot more of that this year. Scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 1, the seventh annual festival has a lot of new attractions.

Food is hardly ever scarce at any Southern celebration, and the festival’s organizers take that concept to another level with the first best cornbread best chili cookoffs.

“We want it to be a family thing, but we want something for all people to enjoy,” Smith said. “A lot of the older people enjoy bluegrass music, and we’re trying to add more stuff for the kids. This year we’re going to have pop-up inflatables for the kids and pony rides. The chili cookoff is something that people our age like.”

The chili cookoff offers a $250 cash grand prize and trophy. The public will also be able to taste the chili and cornbread and vote for their favorites, earning a trophy for the winners.

Entry forms for both cookoffs are available at the Selma Dallas County Public Library, Chamber of Commerce and Central Alabama Farmers Co-op.

Staples of the festival also return this year, including a 1951 Ford tractor that pulls a wagon ride.

“Everyone enjoyed that last year,” Smith said. “There were older people fighting younger people to get on it.”

Live music will begin at 10 a.m. with 7-year-old Caleb Bryant and his grandfather playing dueling fiddles. The Gravy Soppers will play around noon, and the HemHawers and Dixie Land Cloggers will follow later in the afternoon.

Smith also hoped to add to the appeal of the festival by making it more affordable for families. Admission this year is $5 per carload.

“A lot of people in Selma don’t realize all the historic places we have in town,” Smith said. “They don’t go to them. Hopefully, if we can grow the festival into something bigger, it’ll get more people involved.”

The festival is a celebration of rural life in the Black Belt, especially its agricultural tradition. Families used to drive wagons full of corn to the mill, where it was ground into cornmeal by large, water-powered stones.

James Kenan built the mill in 1861, and it ceased operation in 1968. It was restored and resumed operation in 1987 and still runs during special events today.

A corn grinding demonstration, tours of the mill and charcoal kiln, arts and crafts and a variety of food are also available throughout the day.