Fig Festival

Fig Festival Items


August 5, 6 & 7, 2021

Special Guest Chef Vivian Howard!


We say,  “Go FIG or go home!” We’ve got an extra special treat for y’all this year.

Ocracoke Fig Festival will be hosting Chef Vivian Howard this year.

The annual family-friendly event takes place Aug. 5–7, 2021 on Ocracoke Island, N.C.

OCRACOKE, N.C. (April 27, 2021) – The Ocracoke community will celebrate the summer’s fig bounty at its annual Fig Festival with special guest chef and TV personality Vivian Howard.

The 8th annual Ocracoke Fig Festival will take place at the Berkley Barn and on the grounds of the Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum. The three-day festival, which is sponsored by the Ocracoke Preservation Society, features live music, storytelling, children’s activities and crafts, talks by local fig experts, and vendor booths offering fig preserves, fig cakes, fig trees, local cookbooks and other fig-tastic items.

“I’ve fallen in love with Ocracoke in recent years,” Howard said. “After the double whammy of Hurricane Dorian and the pandemic, I’m happy to encourage tourism to the island and do a little touring myself by participating in this year’s Ocracoke Fig Festival.”

Howard, star of the PBS shows, “A Chef’s Life” and “Somewhere South,” will be the festival’s special guest at the Savory Side of Figs Dinner on Thursday evening (Aug. 5). This popular event will feature savory fig dishes from local chefs and restaurants, as well as Howard. Tickets for the dinner will be available through the OPS Museum gift shop beginning July 1.

Other events with Howard include a book signing on Friday afternoon (Aug. 6) and a public Q&A on Saturday morning (Aug. 7). Howard also will serve as a guest judge at the Fig Cake Bake-Off, the showpiece of the fig festival on Saturday afternoon (Aug. 7).

All are welcome to submit a cake in one or both categories: Traditional or Innovative. The Traditional category is limited to the old-fashioned recipe, available in local cookbooks. Even using the same recipe, there are differences: the type of fig preserves used, the balance of spices or the cook’s magic touch. Anything goes in the Innovative category as long as there are figs in it. There also is a Youth category for ages 15 and younger. Howard will award the bake-off prizes and welcome the evening’s entertainment: Ocracoke’s favorite 80s cover band, Raygun Ruby.

During the week of the fig festival, island restaurants will offer fig-infused menu items, both savory and sweet. Local shops will stock this year’s selection of fig preserves so you can take some Ocracoke sweetness home with you.

Thursday Evening Event:  The Savory Side of Figs

Thursday, August 5 at 6pm will be The Savory Side of Figs at The Berkley Barn. Local restaurants, chefs and cooks will prepare fig inspired savory dishes for our enjoyment. Vivian Howard will be the guest of honor and will prepare a special dish for the event.

Tickets at $75 / $65 for OPS Members. Ticket sales begin July 1, at 10 am. Call the OPS Museum at 252-928-7375 or stop by the museum gift shop to purchase your tickets. (no early sales will be accepted and no waiting list is available_)

About OPS:

The Ocracoke Preservation Society is a 501c-3 non-profit, community-based organization dedicated to the preservation of Ocracoke Island’s rich historical and cultural

heritage. More information at

About Vivian Howard

Vivian Howard is an award-winning cookbook author, TV personality, chef and restaurateur. Her first cookbook, Deep Run Roots: Stories & Recipes from My Corner of the South (2016), is a New York Times bestseller and was named Cookbook of the Year by the International Association of Culinary Professionals. She created and stars in the PBS shows Somewhere South and A Chef’s Life, for which she has won Peabody, Emmy, and James Beard awards. Vivian runs the restaurants Chef & the Farmer in Kinston, N.C.; Benny’s Big Time in Wilmington, N.C.; and Handy & Hot and Lenoir in Charleston, S.C. In 2020, Vivian released her second cookbook, This Will Make It Taste Good: A New Path to Simple Cooking.

More information at



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 Margaret had her necessity-as-the-mother-of-invention moment with the date cake, 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. (Fun fact: an “Ocracoke Chocolate Cake” is a yellow cake baked in thin layers with chocolate fudge frosting in between.)


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.


  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. salad (vegetable) oil
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1 Tbsp. warm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. fig preserves
  • 1 1/2 c. chopped nuts

Beat 3 eggs; add sugar and oil. After sifting dry ingredients, add to egg mixture alternatively with buttermilk. Add vanilla and fold in figs and nuts. Pour into a greased and floured loaf pan and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes, or in a greased and floured bundt pan at 350 degrees just a little longer. You can also add a second cup of fig preserves and bake a little longer, approximately one hour.