The Little Village Celebration with a Big Italian Flavor
The Pepper Festival began in 1954 as a way to raise funds to build North Hudson Elementary School and has turned into an annual event to assist community organizations throughout the St. Croix Valley. Proceeds from the volunteer-run, non-profit festival are donated to local youth, school, community and service organizations.
How Did It all Begin?
Between 1890 and 1891, the Village of North Hudson grew rapidly as Italians emigrated to work in the railroad car shops. In 1912 the village was incorporated. By 1954 North Hudson needed to raise funds to build and support a new elementary school as it was not part of the Hudson School District (that union came in the late 1950s). What better way to fundraise than to create a Festival, the Pepper Festival, complete with Italian food and a queen coronation.
“The first Pepper Festival was at the site of the old North Hudson School on the corner of 5th Street N and St. Croix Street N. It was an old two-story wood structure and is most remembered for the fire escape tube that was attached to the second floor of the structure” (Hudson Newsroom June 7, 2012). Pepper Fest was then moved to the site of the current school after the new structure was built.
Today North Hudson still operates under it’s own village government and Pepper Fest has continued to honor it’s Italian heritage with homemade Italian food Not only has North Hudson Elementary continued to receive support but so have numerous other community organizations throughout the St. Croix Valley.
1955 An airplane dropped cash and candy for the kids and the parade went from Coulee Road in Hudson to North Hudson
1956 J.P. Patches, Casey Jones and Bill the Cook from WTCN-TV (ch. 11) attended
1957 There was an elephant in the parade that made a big mess on the street
1963 - 1973 Pepper Fest takes a hiatus
1974 Pepper Fest returns; held in Sam’s Italian Restaurant parking lot
1976 The Village buys the land for Pepper Fest Park and the full Royalty Coronation returns
1977 KSTP-TV & WCCO-TV cover the festival
1982 The paper mache pepper fell off the float
1983 The festival opens with a helium balloon release
1985 Pepper Fest float wins East Wind Award at the St. Paul Winter Carnival
1988 90 m.p.h. winds close down the festival immediately following coronation.
1989 Another Winter Carnival Award, West Wind Award
1994 KARE-TV & WCCO-TV cover the festival and the food almost runs out
1996 Queen Alli Pawlenty sets the Royalty Spaghetti Eating Contest record with 9 seconds for 1/2 pound
1998 Royalty wins a record 9 awards, including the St. Paul Winter Carnival Queen of the Snows Award
1999 St. Paul Winter Carnival presents 1999 Royalty with the King Boreas Award
2000 Pepper Fest gave back over $22,000 to the Hudson Area
2004 Pepper Fest celebrates 50 years of HOT STUFF
2005 Royalty sets a new record of winning 16 parade awards
2012 The Club of Pepper Kings build a new Royalty float
2019 Pepper Fest purchases adjacent land and home to Pepper Fest Park with plans to expand the park and add a community center