Vegan Cuts

World Champion Hopkins County Stew Contest, Sulphur Springs, Texas

I can’t tell you just how excited I am about this year’s Hopkins County Stew Contest. Ever since we’ve lived here, I have completely enjoyed our own Hopkins County Fall Festival and the opportunity to eat as many bowls of fresh hot stew as I can eat for just 5 dollars! The Fall Festival begins on the second Saturday of September, each year, with the Stew Cook-off always on the third Saturday.

And y’all, this year, I will be participating as a “Celebrity Judge!”
That’s what the letter said, “Celebrity Judge.”
I get to taste & judge ALL THE STEWS FOR FREE, YEEE-HAW!

Let me just say, although Sulphur Springs may be a small East Texas town, there’s a whole community of foodies and great cooks here that KNOW how to put on a spread.

You see that man in the above photo? Does he look like he’s playin’ around?
NO sir’ee!  He camped out overnight on the Fall Festival grounds, woke up BEFORE DAWN, stoked his cooking fire and started building his stew from scratch when the sun broke the dark sky.  He’s been peeling, cutting, stoking and stirring all morning long.  And why?

Well, this year’s cook-off features over 132 cooking teams competing for several thousand dollars in prize money.  Cooking over open wood fires, teams prepare hearty chicken and beef stews in huge cast-iron pots.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! The atmosphere will send you back in time as gingham and calico-clad ladies stir simmering pots and bearded men in denim and homespun digs stoke glowing campfires. Teams compete for prizes for “most appropriate heritage campsite and costumes”, as well, in addition to the stew prizes.

We’ve even been on The Food Network’s “All American Festivals” show in 2003, which featured our 2002 World Champion Hopkins County Stew Contest.


The World Champion Hopkins County Stew Contest is held in Sulphur Springs, Texas.  Right by the Chamber of Commerce and Hopkins County Regional Civic Center, 1200 Houston Street.

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The cost for all-you-can-eat stew and fixin’s is $5. Children under 6 eat free.
Stew tickets will go on sale at 9:00 AM

Stew will be served to the public beginning at 11:00 AM.
Service tents will open at 10:45 AM for attendees to obtain stew bowls, cheese, crackers, etc… Judges’ samples to be delivered to the judges’ tent at 10:45 AM.

COME EARLY and get your bowls. Folks around here don’t mosey up to the stew pots, they stand in line when it comes time to eat!  This is the largest event in our county each year with a crowd of 8,000 to 10,000 in attendance.  So when the clock strikes 10:20ish go stand around the best smellin’ stew you can find, start looking for the veteren stew makers, you can’t miss them.  Then, work your way around.

BIG TIP, don’t toss away your bowl & spoon!  You only get one each. As soon as you finish one stew, you go find another to eat.  I ask to have my bowl filled 1/3 of the way, then eat while I’m standing in the next stew line, and get another 1/3, and keep moving until I’m full.

For more pictures from past festivals check out the Hopkins County Fall Festival site.

I’ll be hanging around the judges tent, so come find me and say ‘Hello!’

Did you see these?

  • Topsy-Techie

    Now if that isn’t just the best idea for a festival I’ve ever heard of! A STEW festival! Man oh man, why can’t Texas be a little closer??!!

  • Jerry

    Too bad SS is so far away from Wichita Falls, and too bad I didn’t know sooner. We would have skipped the crappy Ol’ GrapeFest and gone to this event instead!

  • Jill

    Today, 2 days after the stew judging, my tongue is still numb from tasting 39 boiling HOT chicken stews.

    I’m working on a video that I hope to have posted by Friday about the experience.

  • Maggie Griffin

    I’ll be judging too, so maybe we can connect! I’m the corporate nutritionist for Brookshire’s Grocery. I’ll be coming from Tyler and this is my first time at the Stew Cookoff. Looking forward to it!

  • Jill McKeever

    Hi Maggie! You are in for a treat! This article was actually written last year in 2008. I had a blast.

    Don’t eat breakfast ;D and depending on what you prefer, chicken or beef, you only judge one or the other. I chose to judge the chicken stews. I was in a large room with I think 15 other chicken stew judges. We had a good time getting to know each other. You can also judge the stew camp sites that dress up. I didn’t do that because I chose to record the whole event on video and photography.

    I found myself attracted to all the various cooking pots and the way they were built. Stew cooks are SERIOUS about this festivals.

    Check out the video I made and let me know what you think.