Little village, big flavor.
North Hudson may have fewer than 4,000 residents, but each year in late August, nearly 10,000 people make their way into the quaint village for an annual tradition: Pepper Fest. The three-day community festival is a celebration of North Hudson’s Italian heritage; it continues a legacy of giving back that began in 1954 as a way to raise money for a new elementary school.
Though the event does involve pepper eating contests, it’s so much more: live music, a carnival, a beer garden, homemade Italian food, a yard decorating contest, Bingo, a parade, a medallion hunt, bean bag tournaments and foot races. Each day brings something unique to enjoy.
“What I’ve experienced here in North Hudson is the entire village has a festival. A number of people will have house parties … many class reunions come down to Pepper Fest. We have the parade on Saturday … It’s an entire village celebration,” says Tim Zais, Pepper Fest board president. “It’s not just our organization doing this. We put it on; we have a location for people to come to to help celebrate Pepper Fest, but I think they also take it upon themselves.”
Each year, families, school groups and service organizations work the nonprofit event, helping with food prep, events and entertainment. Proceeds from the festival are donated back to many of these community members and organizations through grants, with an average of $20,000 distributed annually. Any other funds brought in are used to support the creation of a community center on newly acquired land near Pepper Fest Park. “Everything that we do either goes to the community center or back to the community itself,” Zais says.
The North Hudson Pepper Fest will take place August 18–20 at Pepper Fest Park, 400 Seventh St. N., Hudson, Wisconsin. To learn more, visit pepperfest.org.