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Chester County Press

The 31st Annual Mushroom Festival: There's a little bit of new mixed with some old favorites

08/29/2016 02:01PM ● By Randy

Guests stroll down State Street and linking side streets to what the nearly 250 vendors are offering.


The Mushroom Festival gained a national reputation as one of the best food festivals in the U.S. It achieved this status over its 31-year history by building on tradition, changing with the times, and always finding new ways to celebrate the mushroom in Kennett Square, the Mushroom Capital of the World. This year is no exception. Many of the traditional events associated with this annual fungi celebration return for another year with a couple of tweaks that may make them even more interesting.

Kennett Square native and professional eater, Monty Wiradilaga, Jr., (a.k.a. Moe Train) is organizing this year's National Fried Mushroom Eating Championship, one of the newer and most popular events of the Mushroom Festival. He's encouraging his pro-eating friends to take a stab at the world record of devouring 11.5 pounds of mushrooms in eight minutes, while at the same time encouraging all residents within a 15-mile radius of Kennett Square to compete for a new local champion title. Come cheer all the contestants in the Special Events Tent on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 3 p.m. Want to be a last-minute contestant? Come to the Special Events Tent between 1 and 2 p.m. to see if any slots are available.

The first event of the Mushroom Festival, the Amateur Mushroom Cook-Off is now a qualifying event of the World Food Championship. The winner of the Mushroom Festival's cook-off will win a golden ticket to compete against 400 other competitive cooks at the World Food Championship this November in Orange Beach, Alabama. They will have the opportunity to win additional cash prizes, including the $100,000 grand prize. The theme for the Recipe Division of the World Food Championship and the Amateur Mushroom Cook-Off is “Breakfast.” The six finalists will start cooking at 10:30 a.m. Judging is at 11:30 a.m., shortly after that the winner will be announced. All are invited to cheer the contestants on as they create such dishes as Mushroom Stuffed Omelet Waffles with Cheesy Mushroom Drizzle, Sunnyside of ‘Shrooms, and Mushroom Biscuit Egg Sandwich with Mushroom Ragu.

Over at the Antique and Classic Car Show, they are expecting some spectacular cars spanning the last 100 years. Stroll along Broad Street and chat with proud car owners about their unique vehicles—everything from old delivery vans, to hot rods, to beautifully restored classic cars. New this year, the Antique and Classic Car Show is featuring two car clubs. Since Festival Saturday is also the start of Drive Electric Week, members of the MD Volt and the Eastern Electric Vehicle Club will show their electric rides together on the second block of the Show. It will be a great opportunity to talk with these drivers of electric cars about their modern day experiences. Also on display with the electric cars will be a restored 1916 Rausch and Lang electric car from the Marshall Steam Museum at Auburn Heights, in Yorklyn, Delaware. The Antique and Classic Car Show is only on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is located on Broad Street from E. Cypress to Mulberry Street.

Extend your stay in Kennett Square on Saturday with the Saturday Evening Concert in the Special Events Tent. This year's concert features two well-known regional artists: Christine Havrilla, of Philadelphia, and Mason Porter, of West Chester. Christine is known for her unique musical style, a blend of folk, rock and country, as she tours the country as a solo act or with her band, Gypsy Fuzz. She'll take the stage solo for the Mushroom Festival's concert and present a combination of new and classic songs. Mason Porter's high energy bluegrass-country-rock sound will lift your spirits and keep your toes tapping for the second half of the evening. Discounted advanced sale tickets are available from the Mushroom Festival's website ( and includes a coupon for a free admission wristband. Come early, enjoy the Festival and stay for the show. Gates open at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10. Concert starts at 7:30 p.m.

Make sure to visit the Cute-As-A-Button (mushroom) Baby Photo Contest this year. This annual lighthearted competition is to crown 2016's “Cutest Button” (6 to 15 months old), “Cutest Crimini” (15 months to 24 months) and “Cutest Portabella” (24 months to 36 months). Each contestant/photograph has a donation jar where the public “votes” with their pocket change. The photograph that collects the most money is named this year's “Cutest.” New this year, all donations will go to the A. I. DuPont Children's Hospital through WSTW's “Help Our Kids” radiothon. Stop by with some pocket change, vote for your favorites and help the children at A. I. DuPont at the same time.

New this year at the Mushroom Run and Fun Gus Walk, electronic timing chips. For all the serious runners, this annual event is stepping up its game with more accurate and instant results. Runners of the 5K course know the course is a little more challenging than it looks as the course starts on a slight downhill course along the Red Clay Creek. The slight uphill return is a good workout to start Festival Sunday. There's a good chance the Festival's mascot, Fun Gus, will make an appearance to start his Festival Sunday with the walkers. Registration opens in front of Kennett High School at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 10. The race kicks-off promptly at 8:30 a.m. for the 5K and 8:35 a.m. for the 2-mile walk.

Children's Entertainment continues to add new activities for all to enjoy. This year StiltGirl (Samantha Hyman) will be in the center of town from 1 to 3 p.m. to meet and greet all guests. Miss Denise, the Happy Clown will return to the children's rides area to make balloon sculptures for the younger crowd. Entertainment on the children's stage includes the return of festival favorites, Dan and Galla, Josh Horton, and Larry Denberg (Check out the full schedule in the center of this guide).

The Culinary Tent has a great schedule of chefs. Saturday features Jen Daskevich, World Food Champion & Founder of Sandwich America, Christina Verelli, local competitive cook, food blogger, and on air guest for KitchenAid on QVC and MacGregor Mann, head chef and owner of Junto, Chadds Ford. Sunday brings Jen Daskevich back, with Robbie Jester, the head chef Stone Balloon Ale House in Newark, Del., John Moeller, former White House Executive Chef, now cookbook author and owner of State of Affairs Catering and Natalie Jenks, local caterer and owner of Natalie’s Fine Foods food truck.

As you cruise along the Street Fair, which will be filled with nearly 250 vendors, take a few minutes to stop by the rest of the Festival's featured events. Check out the creativity of local artists at the Painted Mushroom Silent Auction; there's even a People's Choice contest for you to vote for your favorite painted mushroom. Rest your feet a while and listen to some great local music at the Community Stage on Lafayette Street. Another great place to take a break is at the Masonic Lodge and have a cup of traditional mushroom soup, based on an old family recipe from one of the area's growers. Sunday, the Soup and Wine Event returns to the Special Events Tent with mushroom soup tastings from many local restaurants and wine tastings from the region's wineries.

Other mushroom-related fun includes the Growers' Exhibit. It is the best way to learn about how mushrooms grow from the area's mushroom growers. Be sure to stop by a Mushroom Sales Tent to place your order for fresh mushrooms to take home. They'll stay fresh in refrigerated trucks until you are ready to leave. Another great place to get fresh mushrooms is at Mushroom Judging event on Sunday. Once the mushrooms ribbons are awarded, the mushrooms are sold. Be there between 1 and 1:30 p.m. to snatch up some prize-winning mushrooms.

Together, all the events whether the same as previous years or tweaked a little for something new gives everyone – young and old – a great way to celebrate the delicious varieties of commercial mushrooms grown in Southern Chester County.