On the first Saturday of every March, a line forms in the Forest Avenue Library outside the meeting room. As you walk inside, wondering what the hub-bub is all about, you may start getting wafts of chicken, beans, spices, and greens. You're in luck - you just walked into the annual Soul Food Festival, presented by the Friends of the Forest Avenue Library.
Every year, more than a dozen volunteers spend several hours creating homemade dishes for this popular fundraiser. The menu each consists of traditional soul food fare: fried chicken, black-eyed peas, red beans & rice, greens, cornbread, potato salad, and much more.
No one actually remembers exactly when the first Soul Food Festival was held, but it dates back more than a few decades. According to a blog post from former Des Moines Public Library Director Sally Wisdom, the first Soul Food Festival was likely held in the 1970s, and definitely was held in the old Mid-City Library, located at 13th Street and University Ave.
It also used to be held in February to mark Black History Month, but enough inclement weather occurred during that time that it was decided to move the festival to the first Saturday of each March.
Several of the Friends of the Forest Avenue Library have been cooking food for the festival for multiple decades now, and they've dealt with their fair share of hiccups. During the Forest Avenue Library oral history project, longtime volunteer Veola Davis recalled one such incident.
Meals will be served up from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM this coming Saturday. A meal will cost $7 (bring cash!), and à la carte items, including extra sides and desserts, will be available for purchase as well.
Last Modified June 02, 2020