Defined, the word Selflessness is “having little or no concern for oneself, especially with regard to fame, position or money,” but to see it in action, as a verb, is to completely grasp its truest nature. Over the course of the last 18 years, Chester County residents have had to look no farther than the annual Mushroom Festival in Kennett Square for clear evidence that the word is alive and well, and it's the word – in all of its kind and humble movement – that has come to define our community.
Since 2000, the monies raised by the festival have been distributed in the form of grants among more than 100 organizations throughout Chester County. Profits from the 2016 festival gave $81,200 out; the next year, the 2017 festival awarded organizations with a total of $81,620; and at ceremonies held at Genesis’s Michael R. Walker Building on April 5, the festival's board of directors made distributions to 52 benefactors, that totaled $114,068.
In total, the Mushroom Festival has gifted more than $1 million to the Chester County communities and organizations it supports since 2000, and we believe that's a cause for celebration, and thanks.
To the sporadic, regular or first-time visitor, the annual Mushroom Festival resembles a giant block party – a collective surge of frivolity measured in the beats of events, music, contests and distinct personalities, who flood downtown Kennett Square for as far as the human eye can see. It has become, for a variety of reasons that have been burnished into Chester County lore, one of the area's largest annual events and without question, one of its most popular.
And yet, visitors never see the humble workings of the Mushroom Festival beyond the stages and culinary tents and the contests. It is made possible quietly, by the generous financial support of the local mushroom industry, and many businesses and organizations, and hundreds of volunteers who put the their community ahead of themselves.
In 1986, a small group of mushroom enthusiasts decided to have a festival to celebrate Kennett Square's number one cash crop, and the hope of raising funds to give as scholarships to local high school students. This Sept. 8 and 9, the festival will celebrate its 33rd year, and although the festival has changed since that first year, its mission has always been the same: To promote Kennett Square as the mushroom capitol of the world; to educate consumers about the mushroom; and serve as a major player in the promotion of Chester County.
Yet, there is a larger mission here, and it's one that has been seen in the work of organizations who have taken the gifts they have received from this festival and made the lives of all us more enriched, more connected, and more full of hope and promise.
Beyond the pageantry of one of Chester County's most prized traditions, that's a gift that comes to all of us, every year, selflessly.