A triumphant return for the Mushroom Festival09/14/2021 10:46AM ● By Steven Hoffman
Lately, the chatter in Kennett Square has been about the Mushroom Festival. It was cancelled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 Pandemic and resurrected for 2021.
The questions remained: Who would fill the shoes of longtime Mushroom Festival volunteer coordinator Kathi Lafferty, who retired her position last year? And how would things go with the festival’s relocation from State Street to the former Genesis parking lot on Broad Street?
When all was said and done, and with the blessing of perfect weather, the answer to the second question was, “Things seemed to work out just fine.”
Kennett Fire Company office manager and administrator Gina Puoci moved into the role as president of the festival board. On Saturday morning, as she took a moment to look at what the Mushroom Festival organizers were able to create, she was pleased. People seemed to be arriving and the events were moving along.
What was her biggest challenge?
She said that one of the hardest things was getting that huge 110-foot tent set up for the growing exhibition. It took eight burly men to do it, a board member said later.
She said that, despite that challenge, it was important to have the growers’ tent because it was popular with visitors.
“I’ll crash on Monday morning when it’s all over,” Puoci said.
The 2021 event seemed to go very well, despite all the changes that needed to be made as a result of the pandemic. The number of vendors was limited to about 100 instead of 200 or more, there was no parade on Friday night, and a number of popular events were missing. Still, as people arrived from nearby and from out or town, they filled—but didn’t overcrowd—the venue. The visitors were uniformly cheerful and appeared to participate in the whole thing eagerly.
During the two days, they ate the food offerings and continued to purchase the creative crafts the vendors had to offer.
A large and enthusiastic group assembled at the community tent to cheer on the competitors at the amateur cooking and mushroom eating competitions.
At those events, Chera Little from Texas won the cooking contest with her Umami Baby Bella Mushroom and Ponzu Egg Drop Soup. Sean Yeager of Phoenixville won the mushroom eating contest after he consumed five-and-a-half pounds of mushrooms in eight minutes.
Gone were the rides for children from previous years, but they were replaced at the southwest corner in a roughly established corral with bouncing tents and a tall bungee jumper.
Throughout Saturday and Sunday there were lectures on the nutrition and the cooking of mushrooms, and there were also musicians playing on the stage.
This year’s event, which was the 36th Mushroom Festival, was moved off State Street because of instructions by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation caused by nearby road construction. The online chatter has some expressing their satisfaction with the new location of the event, while others said they hoped it would return to State Street next year.
Saturday morning began with a short ceremony remembering the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. Additionally, there was a presentation recognizing the 20 years of leadership Lafferty had provided to the festival.
There was a flag-raising with former Kennett Square mayor and ubiquitous ceremonial musician Leon Spencer singing the “Star Spangled Banner” as the festival’s board of directors looked on.
Then, Lafferty was presented with a festival T-shirt by the board, and State Rep. Craig Williams presented her with a citation recognizing her contributions to the mushroom industry.