Here’s a foodie riddle for you: What versatile veggie isn’t technically a plant? You guessed it, the humble mushroom. High in antioxidants, selenium, fiber, potassium and vitamins C and D, these amazing fungi are grown, celebrated, and enjoyed at the annual Pacific Northwest Mushroom Festival.
This year is the tenth anniversary of the Festival and promises a sunny weekend of food, music, celebrity chefs and more. Saturday and Sunday, July 29-30, Lacey’s Regional Athletic Complex across the street from Ostrom’s Mushroom Farm, is transformed into the tastiest community fundraiser around.
Corey Lopardi, Marketing Chair of the PNW Mushroom Festival, explains that by supporting the festival and the Hawks Prairie Rotary Club, “funds help the Hawks Prairie Hero’s Youth Scholarship Program, Homeless Backpacks, Boys & Girls Clubs, Dick Nichols Scholarships, North Thurston Dance Team, Rotary water projects and local Rotary partnership projects like the playground at Pear Blossom Place in Olympia. It’s our 10th annual event, and there will be a special presentation after opening on Saturday to recognized the City of Lacey and Ostrom’s Mushroom Farms for their support over the last 10 years.”
This decade-long festival is unique in that it is completely volunteer-run with no paid positions. “There are no staff or a contracted festival manager, and it is not backed by paid city or non-profit employees,” says Lopardi. “It takes well over 100 volunteers and a few thousand volunteer hours to put on the festival for the community. Attendees come from all over the world to the event, and about of a third of the total attendees come from outside the Thurston County area.”
The Festival kicks off with a Friday night 5K Glow Run. Pre-race check-in starts Thursday, July 27 or can be done before the race on July 28. There is an 8:00 p.m. half-mile kids run and 9:00 p.m. 5K for athletes of all ages and abilities. Come dressed in bright colors and lots of white that work well with the course’s black lights as the best outfits win prizes.
Unlike other fun runs, the race includes a Glow Water station where you’ll be splashed to bring out your Day-Glo sparkly side. Register online through July 26 or at the event. Be aware that Glow Water washes off skin but not clothes…wear something you don’t mind artfully splattered.
Saturday and Sunday include cooking demonstrations, educational speakers, a full Kid’s Zone and adult wine and beer tent. The first activities kick off at 10:00 a.m. and run through the evening. Approximately 10,000 people attended in 2016 alone to enjoy samples, live music and tours of the nearby Ostrom’s Farm.
New this year are speakers Taylor Fairbrother and Cheshire Mayrsohn and chefs Maxwell Reeves and Bonnie Giardina. They’ll pair with returning fan favorites: Food Network winners chef Amadeus and chef Ryan Ross, author Langdon Cook, balloon twister Adam Lee and Celtic rock band Slainte.
“We have four stages of activities going on both days as well as over 60 vendors with foods, crafts, and info, bounce houses and activities for the kids, a variety of food vendors, a wine and beer tent for those over 21, and a root beer float tent for children of all ages.”
While many of the vendors and demonstrations offer samples, if you’re coming to eat, join the ever-popular Shroom Feast. For $10 you’ll receive a tasting book with seven taste tickets. These can be redeemed for food from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, including bottled water and root beer floats.
Don’t forget to vote for your favorite mushroom dishes. This year’s contestants include gumbo with mushrooms, Portobello sliders, and truffle oil chocolate cupcakes.
A family-friendly weekend, the Kid’s Zone offers bounce houses, free face painting, games and entertainment. Fish the stocked trout pool, win prizes in the Sunday morning mushroom hunt and dance to the River Ridge high school Taiko drums.
Festival tickets are $5 for adults and parking is free. With temperatures predicted to be over 80 degrees, please leave pets at home where they’ll be cool and safe. Follow the event on Facebook for updated information on Ostrom’s Farm Tours, performers and more. The Regional Athletic Complex is located at 8345 Steilacoom Road SE, just off Marvin Road.
Whatever your stance on Portobello, shiitake, enoki, cremini or chanterelle, the Pacific Northwest Mushroom Festival is worth the trip. Where else can you have fried alligator, homemade bisque and mushroom cupcakes all on the same day?