Asparagus Festival next weekend

May 31, 2014
asparagus

Asparagus spears sprout up in Oceana County.

HART — Leading the way as one of the top producers of asparagus in the nation, Oceana County will celebrate its claim to fame this weekend with the National Asparagus Festival.

This year’s 41st annual celebration will be especially festive as local farmers are reporting one of  the best asparagus crops in decades. Events begin Friday, June 6, and continue through Sunday, June 8.

“Saturday is the big day,” said NAF Board Secretary Christine Rickard. “People from all over the United States come.” The uniqueness of the festival is a big draw. There are only two other festivals similar to it in the entire country — the Stockton Asparagus Festival in California and the Empire Asparagus Festival in Empire, Mich. Empire’s festival was May 16-18 and is much smaller-scale than Oceana’s, and the Stockton festival is more music-oriented, said NAF Board President Linda Foster. “Our festival is the only one with an Asparagus Queen,” she said. The queen will be crowned during tonight’s pageant. (See related story http://www.oceanacountypress.com/2014/05/30/first-ever-unwed-asparagus-queen-to-be-crowned-tomorrow-night/)

The queen element of the festival is such a huge draw that it gained national attention last January when it was featured in an article in the Wall Street Journal. (See http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304691904579349171977654200)

But the festival’s main focus that draws 4,000 people to the community every year is that tasty vegetable. “It’s a very versatile vegetable,” Foster said. The vegetable’s versatility will be demonstrated by some new food vendors this year, including a Rothbury vendor who will sell asparagus brats and crepes. There will also be a local vendor with deep-fried asparagus, she said.

A new festival feasting opportunity this year is during the Asparagus Dinner at the Hart United Methodist Church Saturday from 4-6 p.m.

Many favorite activities return, including the highlight event — the Joan Glover National Asparagus Festival Parade Saturday at 2 p.m. through downtown Hart — and a few new events are scheduled. One addition this year is a puppeteer performance Friday night at Hart Commons. Also, the NAF Food Show returns after a one-year hiatus. The food show is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday in the Knights of Columbus Hall in Hart.

An entertainment tent in the Hart Pizza parking lot will serve as the venue for two concerts. The Scottville Clown Band is set to perform after the parade at 3:30 p.m., and Rocket Fuel Haulers will take the stage at 7 p.m.

Another popular returning event is the Spear-It 5K Walk/Run in Silver Lake Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m. To register, visit

National Asparagus Board Secretary Christine Rickard, left, and President Linda Foster are busily preparing for next weekend’s National Asparagus Festival. They are among many volunteers who work to make the festival a success every year. Foster is retiring after 10 years of service.

National Asparagus Board Secretary Christine Rickard, left, and President Linda Foster are busily preparing for next weekend’s National Asparagus Festival. They are among many volunteers who work to make the festival a success every year. Foster is retiring after 10 years of service.

www.goracego.com.

This year’s asparagus has an especially sweet taste, said NAF Board Vice President Leroy Glover, who is an asparagus farmer. “It’s the best quality ever this year,” said Glover, who has been growing the green veggie on his Stony Lake farm for over 50 years. He said his customers at his Stony Acres Farm Market have been raving about the taste this year. “It’s those warm days and cool nights,” he said, that have provided ideal growing conditions. The cooler-than-average spring delayed the start to this year’s growing season by about two weeks, Glover said. Asparagus began popping up in Oceana County May 12. The delayed start, however, will yield a later end to the season,  Glover said. Normally, asparagus season ends around June 20, and this year he’s expecting it to grow until the end of June.

For more information about the festival and all of the events, visit www.nationalasparagusfestival.org. Or, you can visit the new NAF information booth in the office space next to La Fiesta in downtown Hart. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The festival would not be possible without the tireless efforts of its many volunteers. In addition to Foster, Rickard and Glover, the all-volunteer NAF board also includes treasurer Jesse Rickard, Michelle Amstutz, Sally DeFreitas, Steven Lessens, Jessica Woodworth, Janelle Johnson and Cathy Schouten. This year’s festival is bittersweet for Foster, who is retiring after 10 years of service.

Another big attraction to the festival is its “small town appeal,” said Foster. “Also, it’s early in the season,” she said. “This is the kick off to summer.”

 

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