Mushrooms Plus a Whole Lot More at the Pacific Northwest Mushroom Festival

mushroom festival
Scrumptious food and samples will be available throughout the entire weekend of the Pacific Northwest Mushroom Festival. Photo courtesy: Pacific Northwest Mushroom Festival.

If you think the ninth annual Pacific Northwest Mushroom Festival will strictly feature chanterelles, morels, shiitakes and other fungi that thrive in our region then you might miss out on a whole lot more. Dedicated mushroom aficionados and those simply curious about the fascinating toadstools will have multiple opportunities for feasting on and learning about mushrooms.

mushroom festival
Bright clothing as well as walking running, and twirling through the glow zones are encourages for the kick off Grow in the Dark Run at the Pacific Northwest Mushroom Festival. Photo courtesy: Pacific Northwest Mushroom Festival.

Yet those seeking a family friendly community event and a way to support local youth charities should also mark their calendars for July 29 – 31, 2016. The Pacific Northwest Mushroom Festival promises to continue to enthrall mushroom lovers as well as captivate all ages and types of festival goers.

The Pacific Northwest Mushroom Festival kicks off Friday evening with the Grow in the Dark Run. Participants, kids and adults alike, are encouraged to wear bright outfits while walking, running or twirling through glow zones. The event’s name is a tribute to how mushrooms grow while offering a pure fun activity to start the weekend long festivities.

For the mushroom connoisseurs, this year’s festival introduces new speakers and activities. Dr. Skye Weintraub a naturopathic physician, author of health oriented books, and a passionate consumer, photographer and researcher of wild mushrooms is an expert on poisonous mushrooms. She will deliver a presentation comparing toxic and edible look-alike mushrooms asking the audience to identify each type while reporting the death of her audience members’ choices. Her presentations are notoriously humorous and informative.

mushroom festival
Acclaimed chefs throughout the region will conduct cooking demonstrations at the festival. Photo courtesy: Pacific Northwest Mushroom Festival.

Another first time event, the Kids Mushroom Hunt, is scheduled for Sunday in the Kid Zone. Kids twelve and under are admitted free to the festival and can enjoy the bounce houses, arts and crafts, interactive games and displays and a root beer float garden all within the Kid Zone.

While the mission of the festival is to educate consumers about the health benefits of the mushroom, the purpose of the community event is to raise money for charity and more specifically to support local youth programs and scholarships. The Rotary Club of Hawks Prairie has hosted the Pacific Northwest Mushroom Festival since 2008 with this expressed purpose.

mushroom festival
Ostrom’s Mushrooms offers a rare opportunity to tour the farm to learn about mushroom composting and recycling. Photo courtesy: Pacific Northwest Mushroom Festival.

Festival Chair Corey Lopardi explains, “The festival raises money for a variety of community projects such as the Hawks Prairie Heroes Scholarship in which we award $500 to a student from each of the North Thurston Public Schools high schools including River Ridge, North Thurston, Timberline and South Sound. We typically award a student who has gone through some hardships or difficult personal experience yet has persevered and will be going on to post-secondary education. Our financial support helps them in that new step in their lives.”

“We also annually support the Homeless Backpacks program and the Dick Nichols Student Athlete Scholarship at River Ridge High School,” continues Corey. “And each year we select a significant community grant project. We work with organizations to identify an exceptional community need in which the club can make notable improvements from money we raise. We have helped with projects such as building a playground.”

mushroom festival
Kids twelve and under are admitted free to the festival and can enjoy activities such as face painting in the Kid Zone. Photo courtesy: Pacific Northwest Mushroom Festival.

While the best outcome of the Pacific Northwest Mushroom Festival is certainly the money raised from the weekend that helps local causes and youth, the focus of the weekend often centers around the food. There are ongoing cooking demonstrations from some of the most creative and best regional chefs, this year featuring for the first time Chef Ryan Ross who is most recognized as the Food Network Chopped Champion as well as being a private chef in Seattle. Graham Kerr, most recently known for his cooking show The Gathering Place, is also a new addition to the speaker line up.

Additionally, the weekend of the festival is one of the rare opportunities for the public to gain viewing access to Ostrom’s Mushroom Farm. Pre-purchased tickets are available for an in-depth tour to learn why mushrooms grow in the dark, how compost is made and why mushroom growers are some of the best recyclers in the agricultural industry. Among the cooking demonstrations, presentations, and farm tours there will be ample food to sample, including Shroom Feast tasting books offering seven tastings for ten dollars.

To enjoy mushrooms and a whole lot more, check out the 2016 Pacific Northwest Mushroom Festival July 29 – 31 at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey. Complete event details can be found at


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