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Nashville's Hot Chicken Festival

Tomorrow marks July 4th. This, of course means hot weather, hot dogs and hot pants for all, but the 4th in Nashville is a celebration of one more important thing: HOT CHICKEN! The 6th annual Music City Hot Chicken Festival kicks off at 11 am at East Park on Woodland Street in East Nashville. For those of you uninitiated to the hot chicken club (it sometimes happens to longtime Nashville residents for a variety of reasons), this is your chance to finally try Nashville's most indigenous local foodstuff. All your flimsy excuses about irregular hours, unsavory parts of town or your own work schedule will no longer suffice: Nashville's most storied purveyors of the fiery yard-bird will be in one convenient location.

After the very first Hot Chicken festival parade, led by former mayor Bill Purcell, kicks things off, the festival begins at 11. Free samples will be available from Prince's Hot Chicken Shack, Bolton's Spicy Chicken and Fish, 400 Degrees, Smack Your Mama Chicken and Pepperfire for the first 500 people. A few words of advice to first time festival goers and hot chicken eaters: 

1. Bring plenty of water. Obviously you'll need it to mitigate the heat of the chicken. But more importantly, you'll need it while waiting in line in the blazing heat. 

2. If you think you want it hot, order it medium. If you want it medium, go mild. If you want mild, take a walk to Edgefield for chicken tenders (which are quite good) and cheap, gloriously cold draft beer. 

3. As the cayenne-laced chicken goes to work on your digestive tract and activates your tear ducts, refrain from wiping your eyes with your cayenne-caked fingers. This applies for all sensitive areas.

4. Bring your own napkins or wet-naps. See rule #3. You wouldn't want to deface your prized American flag tanktop with unsightly orange smudges. 

5. The white bread is your best friend. Unless you've packed your own gallon of milk, the slice or two of white bread and pickles that come with your hot chicken are your best hope for lessening the burn.

There's also an amateur hot chicken cooking contest between 6 local teams starting at 1:30. A variety of other vendors selling food include Eastside Fish, The Dog of Nashville, Pied Piper Creamery, Otter's Chicken, Yazoo Brewery and more. Happy 4th, LocalEaters. Wear sunscreen.  Be safe. Enjoy the burn.

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Quarter breast plate from Pepperfire

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Bolton's skillet-fried hot chicken. 

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