ELIZABETHTON - It should be chilly in Peters Hollow Sunday afternoon for the 184th annual Peters Hollow Egg Fight, but a little cold weather won't stop the dedicated warriors who have waited a whole year to find out who has the hardest Easter eggs.
"We are going to have a few rule changes this year to make it a little better for our young contestants," Norman Peters said.
The contest has been held in his back yard at 347 Peters Hollow Road for the past 12 years or so and has been held on various properties of his ancestors for the past 100 years.
To speed up the competition so the children won't have to be in the cold too long, Peters said the number of eggs each contestant will be allowed to use has been cut back. For the contest for ages 0-3, contestants may only use one dozen eggs. The limit is two dozen in the 4-8 age category and also two dozen in the 8-12 category.
There will be no such limits set on the hard-boiled adult contest. The full limit of six dozen eggs will be allowed. Peters said the contest will be moved to the fire hall at the intersection of the Stoney Creek Highway and Peters Hollow if it gets too chilly or if it starts to rain.
The four contests are open to all comers, and spectators are always welcome, but Peters suggested visitors should bring folding chairs in case the expected large crowd takes all the available chairs. The contests should begin around 1:30 p.m. While the egg fight is steeped in history that goes back to the presidency of James Monroe, there will be one break with the past this year. Head judge Ernest "Gebe" Ritchie is not able to attend this year, breaking a judging streak of nearly 40 consecutive years.
The egg fight traces its history back to an agricultural dispute between the farmers of Peters Hollow and the farmers of adjacent Rome Hollow over whose hens laid the hardest eggs. The argument was settled when the two sides gathered at a place called Pinhook, where hard-boiled eggs were tapped against each other until one egg cracked. The side with the last uncracked eggs won.
The contest is now over individual and family pride rather than community honor. Family patriarchs like Jerry Peters and Ritchie raise their own hens and feed them secret diets, consult with University of Tennessee agriculture experts, and conduct egg fights throughout the year to develop the best ammunition for the tournament. Often, it is one of the children or grandchildren of Jerry Peters or Ritchie who win the contest, but contestants who bought their eggs at the local grocery store also win. What really matters these days is the fellowship and camaraderie that has always been a part of the event.
Norman Peters has never roamed far from home and lives next door to the house where his mother, Maggie Pearl "Bets" Peters, and his father, Buster Peters, lived. But news people from around the world have sought him out each Easter.
"They usually start calling on Saturday," Peters said.
Through the years the calls have come from all over the United States, Europe and Australia.
"You just never know where they are going to call from," Peters said.
Peters Hollow is located about 10 miles northeast of Elizabethton, off Tenn. Highway 91 (Stoney Creek Highway). Turn right at the Stoney Creek Volunteer Fire Station and get on Peters Hollow Road. Follow it until you hear the cracking of eggshells.