Learn About Immigrant Culture & Burn Your Mouth @ Akron’s Hot Pepper Festival

Sat 8/17 @ 4-8PM

Hot peppers have become a real thing now, as cultivars such as ghost peppers, Carolina reapers and Trinidad scorpions fly out of garden centers, and challenge users to prove they’ve got the toughest esophagus on the block.

Some communities come by their love of all this heat naturally. One of those is the Bhutanese, from Southeast Asia, who number the largest immigrant community in Akron. Their cuisine is known for its spiciness and they love to have hot pepper-eating contests. (Supposedly you CAN die doing this, but you’d need to eat a lot of them).

To share the culture of this immigrant population, which numbers about 6,000, and its cuisine and culture, Akron’s Shanti Community Farms, a nonprofit organization that enables immigrants to maintain their agricultural traditions, is holding its second annual hot pepper festival. Activities include taste-testing, a pepper-eating contest, a rotten tomato stomp, and other traditional Bhutanese competitions such as bamboo splitting and snake gourd spearing. There’ll also be a teen dance competition with pop songs from various countries. It takes place in Patterson Park in Akron’s North Hill neighborhood.

 “Many of our gardeners are planting the original pepper seeds they brought from their homelands,” says Bhakta Rizal, co-founder of Shanti Community Farms.

“And the abundance of chili peppers isn’t just found at the Bhutanese markets,” he says. “Most shops feature heaps of spicy peppers, and along the hilly roads, you’ll see red chilies laid out to dry on every rooftop like scarlet carpets. And in the rural valleys during festivals and prayer rituals, it’s impossible to get away from the odor of burning chilies.”

Tickets are $35-$50, which goes to buying equipment and supplies for the garden, maintaining it and expanding its educational programs. Hot peppers will also be for sale, in case you’d like to take some heat home with you.



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