Dishing up the butterbeans

Leigh Ann Mount dishes up a bowl of butterbeans at the Pinson Valley High Marching Chiefs band booth at the 2013 Alabama Butterbean Festival. This year's edition features Southern Gospel singer/songwriter Squire Parsons, as well as even more booths and displays, plus the traditional 5K road race, car show and fireworks display.

This weekend’s 2014 renewal of the Alabama Butterbean Festival in Pinson will have a slightly different layout, and bigger names on the entertainment lineup.

Squire Parsons, one of the best-known names in Southern gospel music, will be the headliner on the festival’s stage Saturday afternoon.

Parsons, a member of the Southern Gospel Music Association’s Hall of Fame, began his professional music career in 1975 when he joined the Kingsmen Quartet. He went solo four years later.

Parsons has been associated with the Bill Gaither organization for several years, appearing on numerous Gaither Homecoming videos and live events. A nominee for several Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, Parsons is also a songwriter whose best-known work is “Sweet Beulah Land,” which he penned in 1973 and recorded six years later.

The Jeff Otwell Band, a popular local country ensemble, will be the featured performers on Friday evening.

With the city of Pinson’s acquisition of the old Rock School, that facility will be used for the carnival and for additional parking on Saturday. The annual Friday fireworks show, sponsored again by the California Large Lima Growers Association, will blast off from the old school grounds, so parking on Friday will be across the street in the Mission Possible Thrift Store lot. That lot will be used on Saturday for the festival’s car show and the entertainment stage.

The extra space also allows for a smaller footprint for the festival. Vendors will go down Main Street only as far as Spring Street, with parking for vendors only in the old Food Town parking lot.

“It’s not as far for people to walk,” said festival director Ronnie Dixon.

The fireworks show is scheduled to begin at 9:15 Friday night, but may be delayed to give fans at the Pinson Valley-Huffman football game a chance to get back into town.

Dixon said that 40,000 people attended last year’s event.

“When I took over [as director] five years ago, we had about 12,000 people,” he said. “We’re expecting more than 40,000 this year with more ‘name’ performers.”

There’s also a record number of vendor booths this year — more than 120, compared to about 100 in 2013.

Registration for the annual 5K and one-mile road race on Saturday morning begins at 6:15, and the race itself starts at 7. The main festival runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Admission to all events is free.

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