A weekend of food and fun in the Mushroom Capital of the World
By J. Chambless
Foodies will love the cooking demonstrations. (Photo by Chris Barber)
By Steven Hoffman
The first weekend after Labor Day is always special in Kennett Square. That's when the Mushroom Capital of the World hosts a two-day celebration of everyone’s favorite fungi that ranks among the best food festivals in the entire country.
The 34th annual Mushroom Festival takes place this weekend, and visitors will find plenty of family-friendly events and activities, starting with the Street Fair that stretches for almost a mile.
For Kennett Square residents such as Doug Doerfler, the festival has become a tradition. Doerfler, who serves as the president of Kennett Square Borough Council, called the festival a staple of the Kennett community. “I love the music, the educational information in the mushroom tent, watching the celebrity chef demonstrations, and seeing the creativity come out in the mushroom-decorating contest,” he explained. “With that said, taking into consideration all there is to do at the Mushroom Festival, my favorite thing at the festival is still to eat mushrooms in as many ways as I possibly can!”
The Street Fair features approximately 250 vendors from all around the country who showcase gift and craft items. Everything from yard art to fine art to jewelry and clothing will be available. The Street Fair takes place from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
One of the highlights each year is the Amateur Mushroom Cook-Off, which gives people the opportunity to submit their favorite recipe incorporating mushrooms and then prepare the dish during the cook-off. This year, the challenge for the entrants is to prepare a dish featuring pasta with mushrooms. The Amateur Mushroom Cook-Off takes place in the Special Events Tent at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7. The judging begins at 11:30 a.m. First prize is $1,500 cash and a ticket to the World Food Championships in Dallas in 2020.
On Sunday, Sept. 8, one of the highlights of the day is the Soup and Wine Tasting Event. Come and enjoy part of your day by eating soups prepared by local chefs and wine produced by Pennsylvania wineries. Cast your vote for the “Best Mushroom Soup.” The event takes place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Special Events Tent at State and Willow streets. The last admission to the Soup and Wine Tasting Event is at 3:15 p.m.
The Culinary Tent, at the corner of Broad and Cypress streets, brings together a group of talented guest chefs to share their recipes and tips for cooking with mushrooms.
The Mushroom Growers’ Exhibit is a must-see for anyone who wants to learn about how the area’s growers cultivate and grow millions of pounds of mushrooms each week. This exhibit allows visitors to walk through and see a wide variety of mushrooms growing. The Mushroom Judging Contest takes place in the Growers’ Tent on Sunday. Once all the ribbons are handed out, the best of the best mushrooms are sold off.
There’s always a variety of great food to be enjoyed in Kennett Square. Mushroom delicacies include mushroom meatballs, mushroom mac and cheese, mushroom spring rolls, mushroom wraps, mushroom salad, mushroom ice cream and pops, and more. Popular festival foods such as pizza, hamburgers, French fries, smoothies, ice cream treats, funnel cakes and kettle corn are available, too.
For anyone who wants to sample mushroom soup made in the Mushroom Capital of the World, one good place to find it is the Masonic Lodge. A traditional soup made from a mushroom grower’s family recipe is sold here. The soup is made of fresh Kennett Square mushrooms. The Lodge will be selling the soup from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.
There is always plenty of entertainment at the festival, including a lineup of talented musicians will be performing on the Community Stage. The performers this year include Katelyn Christine (12:30 p.m. Saturday); Green Eggs and Ham (2 p.m. Saturday); Chris Bruni (3:30 p.m. Saturday); The Orpheus Supertones (5 p.m. Saturday); The Gilroys (6 p.m. Saturday); It’s about People (noon on Sunday); Campbell and Son (1:30 Sunday); and Hot Breakfast (3 p.m. Sunday).
The children’s entertainment lineup features Dan and Galla’s musical show, the Pittman Magic, Juggling and Comedy Show, and Andrew’s Big Show.
One of the new activities this year is zip-lining, which will take riders on a high-energy trip above State Street. Zip and Bounce will be bringing the zip-line, as well as a bungee, train, and inflatables.
Another new addition to this year’s festival is the Flyers Community Caravan, which will be set up on South Street across from the old-fashioned carnival. From 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, there will be a full-size inflatable rink featuring basic skills clinics, an inflatable shot-on-goal game, and a bungee run. There will also be giveaway items, enter-to-win contests, and photo opportunities with Flyers alumni.
One of the newer and more popular events at the festival is the National Fried Mushroom Eating Championship, which is organized by Monty Wiradilaga, Jr. A native of Kennett Square and a professional eater himself, Wiradilaga serves as the master of ceremonies, and encourages all the competitors to push each other to set a new world record for consuming mushrooms in eight minutes. Come and witness the spectacle, cheer on the contestants, and be a part of history if the world record is broken. The pregame entertainment starts at 2:30 p.m., while the eating contest begins at 3 p.m.
Everyone loves to see cool cars, and some of the most spectacular automobiles to ever roll off a Detroit assembly line will be showcased in the Antique and Classic Car Show that will feature everything from vintage automobiles to American muscle cars to beautifully restored classic cars. The car show takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on South Broad Street, from Cypress to Mulberry streets.
There will also be a painted mushrooms silent auction. Artists paint 108-pound toadstools that are then auctioned off. The beautiful toadstools are perfect for the home or garden. They are displayed at State and Broad streets from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, and then again on Sunday, when the last bids on them will be taken at 4 p.m. Everyone can vote for their favorite painted mushroom.
Another opportunity to vote for a favorite is in the Cute-As-A-Button (Mushroom) Baby Photo Contest. Who do you think is the cutest button, crimini, and portabella? Vote for your favorite contestant/photo with your pocket change in this baby photo contest near State and Meredith streets from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. All proceeds benefit the A.I. DuPont Children’s Hospital through WSTW’s “Help Our Kids” Radio-thon.
After celebrating mushrooms at the festival, make sure to buy some fresh mushrooms to take home. Order the mushrooms you want from the various Mushroom Sales Booths set up at the festival. Refrigerated trucks will hold your purchases until you are ready to leave. The last pick-up is 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, and 5:30 p.m. on Sunday.
While the weekend is always great time in Kennett Square, don't wait until Saturday and Sunday to join in on the fun. On Friday night, the streets of downtown Kennett Square will already be humming with activity as a community parade, an old-fashioned carnival, and dining and dancing in the streets kicks the festivities into high gear. Restaurants will have special tables set up along the parade route on State Street.
Then, after the parade, Good Foot, one of the area’s favorite dance bands, will hit the stage. A carnival and midway featuring rides, games, and carnival foods will be set up in the parking lot of the Genesis building on South Broad Street. The carnival will be open from 6 to 10 p.m.
Visit www.mushroomfestival.org to see a full lineup of events and activities.To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email email@example.com.