In 1917, a salesman for Chattanooga Bakery’s Mountain City Flour Mill was visiting the stores on his route in the coal mining country of Kentucky. He asked them what kind of snack they’d like and the miners told him they wanted something filling. When he asked how big the snack should be, one of the men pointed to the rising moon and said “That big.”
Thus was born the Moon Pie, a sweet confection made of chocolate covered graham crackers and marshmallow filling. They come as single deckers, double deckers, mini Moon Pies and even have a fruit-filled variety.
In 1905 in neighboring Georgia, a pharmacist named Claud Hatcher developed a drink to supply to his family’s grocery store. His first beverage was called “Royal Crown” or RC for short. By 1940, RC was available in 47 of the 48 states due to aggressive advertising and endorsements by such stars as Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.
RC was the first company to distribute soft drinks in aluminum cans and produced the first low-calorie diet cola called Diet Rite.
Whether by design or by fate, these two items have become a pair. Filling and affordable, a Moon Pie and an RC are a southern tradition. And in another pairing, they are celebrated annually on the third Saturday in June at the RC and Moon Pie Festival in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. Located in Tennessee Walking Horse country, this historic town’s population of 400-odd swells to over twenty thousand as folks pour in for an early-morning 10K race followed by the RC-Moon Pie Parade featuring the newly crowned RC-Moon Pie King and Queen. Food and craft booths abound and include such specialties as southern barbeque and fresh lemonade. There’s live entertainment with country music and bluegrass bands and local cloggers. The RC-Moon Pie Madness games commence after lunch and include the Moon Pie toss and watermelon seed spitting contest. After the games, the world’s largest Moon Pie is cut and served to the crowd.
The highlight of the day’s events is the Synchronized Wading, which parodies the synchronized swimming event in the Olympic Games. As a matter of fact, this event was inspired by the 1996 Olympic Games held in not-too-far-away Atlanta, Georgia. Viewers sit on hay bales set up on the town square and follow a scripted story, acted out in a wading pool and accompanied by music and sound effects.
This was the event that drew me and two friends to the festival in June of 2004. One drove from Louisville, Kentucky and the other from a suburb of Nashville and we met up on the crowded town square. After roaming the shops lining the square, all of which featured festival t-shirts, we treated ourselves to a snack of – you guessed it – RC’s and Moon Pies. When we passed a wagon advertising deep-fried Moon Pies, my friend Annie rolled her eyes and quipped a la Frasier Crane, “I can almost hear my left ventricle slamming shut as I speak.” Then we made our way to the square to find ourselves a choice viewing spot and waited for the synchronized wading to begin. By the end of the performance, we’d laughed til we hurt.
Bell Buckle is located about fifty-five miles southeast of Nashville and is an easy day trip from Music City. It boasts several antique shops and the Bell Buckle Café & Music Parlour, which features live music on weekends along with a menu full of down-home cooking. It is also home to the Webb School. Founded by William Webb in 1870, it is the oldest continually operating boarding school in the south.
Next summer, when you’re looking for an outing suitable for the entire family, check out the RC and Moon Pie Festival and enjoy a day of sweet treats and good old-fashioned fun. It's indeed a "southern thing."
Photos courtesy of the Bell Buckle Chamber of Commerce 2007
Labels: Bell Buckle, Moon Pie and RC Cola, TN