The Ocracoke Fig Festival
The 11th annual Ocracoke Fig Festival will take place August 2nd-3rd, 2024, with the exact schedule still to be determined. The festival will have live music, children’s crafts, talks by local fig experts, and vendor booths offering fig preserves, fig cakes, fig trees, and other fig-tastic items. We can't wait to see you there!
Excited for the festival? You can find fig related items, such as the 2023 Fig Festival T-shirts and posters, in our museum gift shop.
The Ocracoke Preservation Society along with local Ocracokers organize the annual Fig Festival, preserving and sharing the island’s fig history with new generations and visitors. Figs have been growing on the island for hundreds of years, and many native Islanders have memories of picking the fruit with their families, making fig preserves, and sharing fig cake. The Ocracoke Fig Festival directly benefits the Ocracoke Preservation Society and serves as a fundraising event so that these Island memories and more can be preserved.
The Beginning Of The Traditional Ocracoke Fig Cake
Once upon a time, Margaret Garrish, an Ocracoke housewife, wanted to bake a date cake. But here she was, stuck on an island, with no dates in her pantry, so she substituted with something she had on hand: fig preserves. Thus, the Ocracoke fig cake (as we know it today) was born.
Before that, the Ocracoke Fig Cake was made with much simpler recipe. According to the vintage “green” cookbook, Ocracoke cooks used a “regular butter cake recipe” baked in thin layers, then spread a quart of fig preserves between the layers.
Margaret was born on Ocracoke in 1936, grew up in Norfolk, VA, and returned to Ocracoke in 1956 when she married Danny Garrish. She and Danny raised four children on Ocracoke (three still live here) before he passed away in 1991. Margaret was active in the United Methodist Church and served on the Hyde County Board of Education for eleven years. She died in 2002, leaving behind her four children, nine grandchildren, two sisters, and the legacy of the Ocracoke Fig Cake that the island considers the Traditional Recipe. By the time the United Methodist Women published their “yellow” cookbook in ‘70’s, four women submitted the same basic recipe, but Margaret’s was listed first.
2024 Special Guest Chef:
Sheri Castle will be our Special Guest Chef for the 2024 Fig Festival! She is the host of PBS NC's The Key Ingredient, an Emmy-winning cooking show, as well as an award-winning food writer and recipe developer. Sheri will be contributing a dish to the Savory Fig Dinner, guest judge at the Fig Cake Bake-Off, and signing copies of her cookbooks.
Savory Fig Dinner - More Details to Come!
Sheri Castle will be the special guest chef for the Savory Fig Dinner. She will cook one figgy dish, with some of Ocracoke's favorite local chefs contributing other savory fig-infused dishes. This is a fundraising event for the Ocracoke Preservation Society.
This is a ticketed event. Tickets will go on sale in the summer of 2024 (date and time TBD).
Fig Cake Bake-Off - More Details to Come!
The Fig Festival's sweetest event will take place Saturday afternoon with the Fig Cake Bake-Off! Sheri Castle will be serving as a guest judge.
Anyone is welcome to submit a cake in one or all categories: Traditional, Innovative, and Youth (15 and younger). The Traditional category is limited to the old-fashioned recipe, available in local cookbooks (and listed below). Even using the same recipe, there are subtle differences: the type of fig preserves used, the delicate balance of spices, or the cook’s magic touch. Innovative entries must be desserts; anything goes in the Youth category as long as there are figs in it!
Cookbook Signing with Chef Sheri Castle - More Details to Come!
Sheri Castle will be signing copies of her cookbooks during the Fig Festival.
Previous Years' Special Guest Chefs
Special Guest Chef 2021
Vivian Howard is the star of the PBS shows, “A Chef’s Life” and “Somewhere South,” a James Beard Foundation Award winner, and an Emmy Award winner.
She has two cookbooks - Deep Run Roots: Stories & Recipes from My Corner of the South (2016) and This Will.Make It Taste Good: A New Path to Simple Cooking (2020). Deep Run Roots is a New York Times bestseller and was named “Cookbook of the Year” by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.
Vivian runs the restaurants Chef & the Farmer in Kinston, NC; Benny’s Big Time in Wilmington, NC; Handy & Hot and Lenoir in Charleston, SC.
Special Guest Chef 2022
Chef Ricky Moore is the owner of the Saltbox Seafood Joint restaurant in Durham, NC. He won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Southeast in 2022.
Ricky was a cook in the U.S. Army and eventually graduated from the The Culinary Institute of America. He is the author of the Saltbox Seafood Joint Cookbook and filmed the documentary miniseries, The Hook, for PBS NC.
Special Guest Chef 2023
Bill Smith is the author of two cookbooks, the New York Times Notable and Food & Wine Best-of-the-Best cookbook Seasoned in the South and the bestselling Savor the South title, Crabs & Oysters, and many articles and essays in various magazines and journals. In 2019 he retired, after twenty-five years, as head chef at Crook’s Corner Restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC. Crook’s Corner gained national renown as one of the South’s liveliest and most innovative kitchens. The New York Times called it “sacred ground for Southern foodies.”
Bill received several nominations from the James Beard Foundation for Best Chef: Southeast and served for six years on the board of the Southern Foodways Alliance. In 2021, he received the Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award from that organization.