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In the US, A sorghum festival celebrates the harvest of sorghum in the southern states where the grain is principally grown. The festivals are generally held in middle to late October. Like other fall harvest festivals held throughout America, a sorghum festival features food, entertainment, music and other activities.
Sorghum is a member of the grass family. It has been grown in India for over 4,000 years, and was used before rice as a staple food in China. Sorghum was also a major African crop for centuries. Today, the largest sorghum producers are China, India, and the US.
Sorghum is one of the most popular cereal grains in the US, and is a staple throughout much of the world. Southern states like Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia are heavy producers of sorghum. The grain is used in unleavened bread, porridge, cakes and malted beverages. It is also used as a sweetener and in making sorghum syrup, sometimes called sorghum molasses.
The crop was widely cultivated in the US from the 1800s, with production production faltering after World War II. For a period in the mid 1900s, sorghum was cultivated mostly for forage and for silage, a fermented green fodder stored for feed during times of scarcity. States located in the Great Plains region of the US cultivated sorghum primarily to feed cattle. Today, the US remains one of the top producers of sorghum.
Sorghum grain is also used as a source of ethanol. It is comparable to corn in the amount of ethanol it yields per bushel. The ethanol industry and agricultural universities continue to study sorghum in an effort to increase it production capacity.
This grain also continues to be of importance in the communities in which it is grown. The state of Georgia has an official sorghum festival in the town of Blairsville which is representative of many festivals throughout the South and some parts of the Midwest.
The sorghum festival lasts for two weeks. It begins with a parade with floats and a marching band where parade participants shower the observers with candy and small gifts. Other events of the festival include fair-style competitions, in which local residents compete for prizes. Entertainment includes Bluegrass music, singing, and clog dancers.
At most festivals there will be locals ready to serve some homemade sorghum syrup to visitors. Local artists display their paintings and handmade crafts, and food booths serve local food and sorghum sweets. Malted sorghum beer is also generally available. There are a variety of entertainments that include such things as fireworks, dancing, and various competitions.