PepperFest was started by Abundance North Carolina, a nonprofit foundation founded in central North Carolina with a focus on sustainability in food and renewable energy.
Schwerin said the idea of PepperFest originated when a local farmer asked people in his community what they thought about the variety of peppers he grew.
After participating in the research project, Schwerin realized that in addition to being nutritious, peppers also grow very well in the region.
This realization inspired the creation of the festival, which has evolved into an educational community event focused on showcasing nonprofits that promote renewable energy and work with local pepper farmers.
Each year, PepperFest hands out awards for the best pepper dishes and pepper-infused beers. A PepperFest queen and king are also crowned. This year’s fest added sustainability workshops to teach attendees how to live more self-sufficient lifestyles.
Schwerin said it is a family-friendly event that attracts a mixture of educated, sustainability-driven people and newcomers who haven’t been exposed to sustainability or gourmet local food.
“We host fun events to motivate people to get on board with supporting local food and economy and increasing renewable energy,” she said.
Craig Rudewicz owns Crude Bitters and Soda, North Carolina’s first bitters company, which will open a location in Raleigh next month. He said he has participated in PepperFest for two years.
“We wanted to provide a non-alcoholic alternative for kids and adults who didn’t want to drink — something that would taste good on its own but also when mixed with other things,” he said of his products.
Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery has also been involved with PepperFest for two years. Chef Matt Butler had a booth set up with roast beef sliders and assorted pepper jellies, created specifically for PepperFest.
“We wanted to do something familiar and have peppers be the condiment,” he said.
Martin Sommerschuh stood in line twice for the TOPO booth while chatting with his friends.
“I love how the grass is green, the sun is shining and there aren’t any houses around,” he said of the festival.
“It’s the perfect getaway.”