Sunday, June 20, 2021

What battlefields? I'm in Bell Buckle for that massive Moon Pie

A selfie at the "World's Largest Moon Pie." Is this a great country or what?

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When Mrs. B. broke the news we would attend the annual RC Cola MoonPie Festival in Bell Buckle, Tenn., I got kind of excited, because I figured there would be an opportunity to con persuade her to visit the nearby Hoover Gap and Liberty Gap battlefields with me. Oh my, so much Civil War history out there in the wilds 45 miles east of Nashville.

She's smiling in this photo, but I think I made Mrs. B
nervous with my "World's Largest Moon Pie" obsession.
That's my sweet sister-in-law in right background.
But we of course got sucked in at the festival by a bunch of cloggers, an 11-minute parade, unusual tattoos, the crowning of the MoonPie Festival Kings and Queen, strangers attempting to balance RC Cola cans on their heads, the obligatory water balloon-tossing contest, and the piece de resistance, the unveiling of the "World's Largest Moon Pie." So my Civil War battlefields con job got scrapped.


For you uninitiated, a Moon Pie consists of a graham cracker cookie, a marshmallow center, and a coating of either chocolate, vanilla, or who knows what else. The small Moon Pie I consumed had kind of a cardboardy taste, and judging by the way the things were smooshed up and tossed in the Moon Pie throwing contest, I think I'm on solid ground there.

The festival in Moon Pie Country is part country fair, part homage to the greatness of Moon Pies, and part comedy, with a large steaming, hot hunk of capitalism tossed in. As my sister-in-law pulled her SUV into the grass parking lot (10 bucks per vehicle), my brother-in-law asked where the parade would be held. "You're in it," said Parking Lot Dude, who had just started his shift 20 minutes earlier. We chuckled like any other RC Cola MoonPie Festival rookies would.

Thankfully, Bell Buckle -- or "Belt Buckle" or "Buckle Belt," as Mrs. B calls it -- is not the "Spandex Capital of Tennessee," because on the muggy afternoon we saw that material deployed in unusual ways, many of which will never in the history of ever be unseen.

Ms. Moon Pie marches in the Moon Pie Festival parade near a giant RC Cola can.

Before the parade, I scouted the ground, sort of like John Buford at Gettysburg: Would the Rocky Valley Cloggers approach from the east or west? Will a Shriner launch a Moon Pie at my noggin'? Will Ms.Moon Pie smile at me? Is Moon Pie one or two words? Is it really capitalized? Remember: People came from as far as Utah, the Caribbean, and even a foreign country (California) for this. Naturally, being a social media maven, I shot cloggers parade video. And, naturally, I shot them in slo-mo on my new iPhone. Perhaps that's why it only has 32 views on Tweeter (above). 

Anyhow, after the parade, we re-deployed with our folding chairs near hay bales and a small stage, the main theater of action, so to speak. “People just come here to be happy,” a festival spokeswoman announced to the crowd about an hour into our experience. "Sorry, ma'am," I growled under my breath, "but I'm just here to see that damn giant Moon Pie."

The WLMP was to be unveiled on stage hours later, so I tapped into my inner Jeb Stuart (minus the plumed feather hat thingie and the horse) and aimlessly wandered about to gather intel. 

Grrrr ... Thankfully, this vicious dog was unable to burst 
through the mesh to go for my jugular.
Nervous and sweaty, I shot a selfie with Ms. Moon Pie. Then I shot a pic of a white dog named Sparkle, Pooky, or Sprinkle -- I forgot which, the fog of war and all. Looking like she wanted to go for my jugular, the vicious animal growled from behind the mesh of some pink-and-black baby carriage-like contraption.

Decisions, decisions: Should I buy an official Moon Pie T-shirt ($15) or the genuine antique Coca-Cola tray ($150)? WWMBD: What would Mrs. Banks do? (I got the shirt.) Where can I get one of those Liberty Gap minie balls? Damn, was that Bell Buckle cop really drinking rum out of that watermelon? Do I really need the $25 bottle of balsamic vinaigrette with a hint of barebecue flavor?

At a stand where a guy offered to draw your portrait in 15 minutes, I examined one of the "These Colors Won't Run" illustrations. Hmmm, I seem to remember a whole lot of retreating by that side during the war. (Kudos to Ms. Smiley for teaching us Critical Retreat Theory in fourth grade at Julia Ward Howe Elementary!) 

Seconds seemed like minutes. Minutes dragged on like hours. Mercifully, the unveiling of the "World's Largest Moon Pie" was imminent. Before the festival we debated how large the WLMP would be. The size of a tractor tire? As large as a poker table top? Would it weigh -- yikes -- 1,000 pounds or more?

The "World's Largest Moon Pie" is escorted to the main stage by security.

Escorted by security -- you can't make this stuff up -- the WLMP slowly was driven to the stage atop a golf cart-like vehicle. It was a quasi-religious experience, with security holding down the sides of a giant box -- it reminded me of those wacky divine evangelical preachers laying their hands on Trump in the Oval Office. Anyhow, the sweaty crowd parted, making way for the WLMP's journey to its final destination. (Well, second-to-last destination, because people were going to eat the thing.) 

Scurrying to get an up-close look, I dodged several other excited WLMP fans, telling one woman I was the "Official Moon Pie Photographer." Feeling silly, I elbowed what probably was the real official World's Largest Moon Pie photog out of the way to get extreme close-ups. ("Did you plant your face in the pie?" Daughter B later texted. Uh, no.) Unable to locate me, my wife, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law apparently were briefly concerned. And then ... "Look, there's John photographing the giant Moon Pie." one of them said, pointing to me standing on a small step ladder mere feet from the WLMP. Mrs. B laughed, nervously. 

This year's WLMP was slathered with a lemon-flavored
coating, according to sources. 
I was shooting a video (below) of the massive Moon Pie when a woman said the crazy man must get off the stage.


Now about the WLMP, well, it was somewhat of a letdown. It didn't look all that massive -- it was more like 20 large, mushed-together pizzas topped with a ton of cheese. (By the way, the WLMP was slathered with a yellow, lemon-flavored coating, according to sources.) I wondered how much cardboard was needed to make it.  

Of course, my "exclusive" WLMP photos and video were anything but. A MoonPie Festival spokeswoman soon announced that anyone who wanted to take a picture of the WLMP should line up stage left. Hundreds did, including the WLMP "semi-official photographer." Ground rules: Each photographer had one second. It was nuts. "You must hurry," the MoonPie Festival spokeswoman said, "because we don't want the pie to melt." HEY, LADY, I'M AN ARTIST!!! 


Is this a great country or what?

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  1. G'Day John,

    Thanks for the cerebral enlightenment and a good chuckle to start the day.

    I had thought that a Moon Pie was just a southern version of an Eskimo Pie!

    Rob(ignorant no longer), Far North Queensland, Australia :)

    1. I always strive to raise IQ of all readers of blog. :)

    2. Moon Pies! Those were a staple at our family’s country store in a small town in Missouri.
      Enjoyed your story, John. Great sense of humor. Hang in there, Mrs. B.

  2. Moon pies were a gift from the gods. However, humankind has taken them down a notch or two with artificial ingredients. They were very good in the olden days. Won't touch the newfangled ones.