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Chester County Press

Mushroom Festival helps put Kennett Square in the spotlight

09/03/2014 12:52AM ● By Lev

The Mushroom Festival started out 29 years ago as a small town's celebration of the largest industry in the area.

It's unlikely that the organizers of that first event could have imagined what the Mushroom Festival has grown into over the years. The festival now attracts a crowd estimated to exceed 100,000 over the two days. These people turn out to enjoy the remarkably diverse offerings of the festival: the mile-long Street Fair, with hundreds of vendors, arts and crafts; the Culinary Tent presentations, where celebrity chef Christina Verrelli and local chefs share tips on how to incorporate mushrooms into meals; special events like the Soup and Wine Festival, where guests can sample the mushroom soups from local restaurants and wines from the area's vineyards, and vote for their favorites; the amateur mushroom appetizer cook-off; the National Fried Mushroom Eating Contest; musical performances like this year's tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons; performances on the community stage; and plenty of activities for children, like the old-fashioned carnival that now takes place at the intersection of South and Broad streets.

If the Mushroom Festival was simply a weekend of family-friendly activities, that would be fine. Nearly two-thirds of the mushrooms that the U.S. produces are grown in this region, and the festival serves as a fitting tribute to the area's top crop. There is a growers' exhibit that shows how the mushrooms are cultivated, tours of local mushroom companies, and an ample supply of fresh mushrooms can be enjoyed in various ways throughout the weekend. The mushroom industry has played an important role in the area's history and will play an important role in its future, too, so a weekend celebration dedicated to this important industry would be quite appropriate.

But the Mushroom Festival is actually much more than a weekend celebration—in fact, it helps impact the local community in many ways throughout the year. Earlier this year, the Mushroom Festival organization was able to distribute $75,000 to 39 nonprofit organizations to enable them to continue their good work. This funding came from the festival held in 2013. Next year, the proceeds from the 2014 event will be distributed to nonprofits. In the last ten years alone, the festival has awarded almost $600,000 through the grant program.

This kind of impact on the local community would have been unimaginable 29 years ago. The Mushroom Festival has far exceeded the goal of highlighting the importance of the mushroom industry. Each year, it puts Kennett Square in the spotlight. Consider the recent national online contest where the Mushroom Festival ranked among the very best food festivals in the country. The festival has played a part in Kennett Square becoming the kind of town that is a destination for visitors. It's not a coincidence that the Mushroom Festival has grown exponentially at the same time that Kennett Square has flourished. The Mushroom Festival is strong because Kennett Square is strong and vise versa. Kudos to everyone involved with making the Mushroom Festival such a success. We encourage everyone to enjoy the festival and its offerings on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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