Mushroom Festival's Spring Gala celebrates its 30th anniversary
● By Steven Hoffman
The Mushroom Festival Spring Gala is a time to celebrate the organization-- the people and supporters -- that make the annual September fungi celebration the huge success it has become. It is also the time of year when the Mushroom Festival Board honors the work of many local nonprofits and presents the annual grants.
On April 17, many gathered at the Red Clay Room for this year's Spring Gala. The event was organized by Mushroom Festival Board members Gina Puocci, Jen Basciani, Anita Swayne, Michelle Gazdik, and Anita D'Amico.
“The Spring Gala is always very symbolic for the Mushroom Festival,” said Randy Lieberman, president of the Mushroom Festival's Board of Directors in his opening remarks, “because it concludes the past year's activities and acts as kick-off for the upcoming year.”
The 2015 Mushroom Festival on September 12 and 13 will be the 30th time a Mushroom Festival has lined the streets of Kennett Square. “Anniversaries are always wonderful, magical, celebratory occasions and tonight is extra special because it kicks off our 30-year anniversary,” said Lieberman. “The past 30 years for the Mushroom Festival have been fantastic in so many ways. It has been defined by a kaleidoscope of happy memories, supportive partnerships and an enduring relationship with the Borough of Kennett Square. The Mushroom Festival has endured the test of time and is now a nationally known event.”
At this year's Spring Gala, RoRo Ferranto was announced as the 2015 Mushroom Festival's Honorary Chairperson.
“It is only fitting to bestow this title on RoRo, who along with two others (attorney Frank Felcetti and reporter Carol Berzon) started the Mushroom Festival back in 1985,” said board member Anita D'Amico in introducing Ferranto. “I asked Ro what she thought of what that little festival she started 30 years ago had become, and she responded that this was always her dream for the festival.” Ferranto received a standing ovation honoring her and her accomplishments.
Ferranto served on the Mushroom Festival's board for its first 15 years. She also worked to raise the funding for painting Kennett Square's water tower with “Mushroom Capital of the World.” As founder of Buona Foods, the Buona breaded fried mushroom booth at the Mushroom Festival is a perennial favorite. The Ferrantos' company also sponsors the annual National Fried Mushroom Eating Championship at the Festival and supplies the product that is devoured at the event.
Gale Ferranto spoke on behalf of her mother RoRo, “My mother was diagnosed with ALS last year. It has taken her voice, but not her energy, spirit and enthusiasm,” she said. She read her mother's words, concluding, “It makes me very proud to walk the street at the festival and awe over what this event has become. Thank you for tonight as it is an honor for me to associate with all of you!”
Since 2000, the first year the Mushroom Festival saw a profit, it has invested some of the proceeds from the Mushroom Festival back into the community in the form of Mushroom Festival grants, helping hundreds of local nonprofit organizations over the last 15 years. In total, slightly over $700,000 has been given back to the community in Mushroom Festival grants and donations.
At this year's Mushroom Festival Spring Gala, 47 local organizations received a total of $80,000 in grants. The organizations and how the funds will be used is as follows:
Adult Care of Chester County received funds for replacement chairs for patient use at the SCC Adult Day Care Center.
ALS Association received funds to purchase devices to that will help ALS patients to stay healthy and active through the Augmentative Assistive Technology Program.
The Arc of Chester County received funds to enhance their ABBLE program, which addresses the needs of two-year-olds with autism.
Avondale Fire Co. No. 1 received funding for video surveillance cameras, a security system upgrade, at the fire house.
Bournelyf Special Camp received funds for transportation costs associated with off-site field trips for canoeing, hiking, and other activities at their annual summer camps for special needs youth.
Camp Dreamcatcher received funding which will allow two HIV/AIDS impacted youth to attend their summer therapeutic camp.
Chester County Council, Boy Scouts of America received funding to send at-risk youth participating in a scouting program to National Youth Leadership Training and/or STEM Camp.
Chester County Women's Services received funding to purchase baby supplies for at-risk parents participating in the Family Movement Program at Kennett Square's satellite center.
Delaware Zoological Society received funding to purchase needed supplies for the Brandywine Zoo's touring program.
The Domestic Violence Center received funding to support the Kennett Square Satellite Office.
Family Promise of Southern Chester County received funding toward the purchase of blow-up beds for hosting families in area churches as part of their new Southern Chester County emergency shelter initiative.
Friends Home in Kennett received funding to bring wi-fi connectivity to Linden Hall, the skilled nursing facility. This will benefit their patients and visiting families.
Friends of White Clay Creek Preserve received funds for supplies to construct a 30-foot bridge for access to the new Tri-State Marker Trail.
Good Neighbors received funds to purchase reusable, metal, portable ramp components for handicapped access to their client's homes.
Head Start received funds to purchase book bags and school supplies for their preschool students transitioning to kindergarten.
Historic Kennett Square received funds to present the annual Memorial Day Parade.
JAM Daycare received funds to purchase equipment and storage for their Pedaling On Project, a new riding skills area at their daycare.
Jonathan Beech Memorial Concert received funds to cover a portion of the costs of putting on the Eighth Annual Jonathan Beech Memorial Concert.
Kennett After Prom received funds to provide entertainment for the Kennett After-Prom.
The Kennett After-School Association received funds to provide after school transportation to students participating in the After-the Bell Program.
Kennett Area Community Service received funding to help with costs associated with renovating the property next to the current KACS building.
Kennett Area Park Authority received funds to produce the 2015 Free Summer Concert Series at Anson B. Nixon.
Kennett Area Parks and Recreation Board received funding toward new bleachers at Herb Pennock Park and for program expenses for the annual KAPRB Kids Cross Country Race
Kennett Area Senior Center received funds to go toward the purchase of a new information technology system at the senior center.
Kennett Education Foundation received funding for the Promising Proven And SMART educational grants for educators and students in KCSD.
Kennett Fire Co. No. 1 received funds toward the purchase of needed equipment for larger vehicle rescue.
Kennett Symphony of Chester County received funds toward the commission of a world premiere orchestral piece and educational outreach project for their 75th anniversary celebration.
Lighthouse Youth Center received funds to purchase laptop computers, ink, paper, and network security for their Homework Assistance Program.
Longwood Fire Company received funds to upgrade the patient-safety rails and mattresses on their primary ambulance stretchers.
Maternal and Child Health Consortium of Chester County received funds to purchase books and supplies for their Healthy Start Program benefiting new parents and child health.
Meals on Wheels received funds to provide hot nutritious meals to residents at Luther House in Jennersville.
Operation Homefront PA/DE/NJ Field Office received funds to supply urgent financial support to military families and veterans, and funds for their back-to-school and/or holiday gifts program event for families.
Oxford Arts Alliance received funds to purchase art stools, tabletop easels, and materials for community art classes.
Oxford Area Neighborhood Services Center received funds toward the costs associated with the agency's strategic planning process.
Paws for People received funds to purchase incentives, such as small toys and t-shirts, for children participating in the PAWS for Reading program.
Quest Therapeutic Services received funds for veterinary and dental care for therapy horses.
Reins of Life received funds for veterinary care services for their therapy horses.
Smart Drive Foundation received funds to purchase Fatal Vision Goggles: Marijuana Impairment Experience to add to the hands on programming of Smart Drive’s B 4 I Drive outreach program for seventh, eighth and ninth grade students.
Southern Chester County Emergency Medical Services received funding toward the purchase of a new Paramedic Responder.
Spanish Health Ministry received funds to cover transportation costs associated with providing translation and interpretation services at their client's medical appointments and home visits.
The Garage Community & Youth Center received funding for the purchase of program supplies for Kennett Square and West Grove Garages' after school programming.
Tick Tock Early Learning Center received funds to purchase new size-appropriate tables and chairs for use by students.
Unionville Chadds-Ford Education Foundation received funds toward the purchase of a mechanism that will automate the greenhouses used as part of a garden-based learning program in the Consumer Science curriculum in the Middle School.
Wings for Success received funds to purchase clothing and undergarments for their clients at their new Kennett Square site.
Kennett YMCA received funds to purchase program materials and supplies, plus fund field trip, admissions and busing, for the Kennett Square Borough Youth Summer Camp program.
Young Moms received funds to purchase program supplies and office supplies for their monthly meetings for teenage mothers.
Youth Community Forward received funds to provide transportation for their 4-H Summer Camp students and families to attend the 4-H Chester County Fair.
Each year the Mushroom Festival also makes a donation to the charity of choice of the previous year's honorary chairs. Terry and Rich Forte, the 2014 honorary chairs, chose A Hero’s Welcome to receive the donation this year.