Kennett Square calls itself the “Mushroom Capital of the World.”
The edible fungus, regarded by some as the “meat” of the vegetable world, takes center stage during the annual Mushroom Festival Sept. 8-10. Highlights of the street fair include food, art, music and contests.
It’s Kennett Square’s No. 1 cash crop. The festival’s website, www.mushroomfestival.org, says that more than 65 percent of the mushrooms consumed in America are grown in southern Chester County. A group of mushroom enthusiasts started the festival in 1986, and it can draw as many as 100,000 people over the course of a weekend, according to the site. It’s held the weekend after Labor Day each year.
When is the festival open?
It begins Friday at 6 p.m. with a Community Parade, stepping off from State and Willow streets; plus an Old Fashioned Carnival on the 600 block of South Broad Street. It’s all supposed to wrap up at 10. The carnival continues Saturday and Sunday, and one-day wristbands may be purchased for $25.
Opening the festival at 10 a.m. on Saturday Sept. 9 is the Amateur Mushroom Cook-Off in the Special Events Tent at State and Willow Streets. This year’s theme is “Mushrooms and Chicken.” Six finalists will prepare an original recipe, and one will win a $500 first prize and an opportunity to compete in the World Food Championships. The day concludes with a sold-out concert at 8 p.m. with 10,000 Maniacs.
Saturday’s schedule also features an antique and classic car show. This year’s feature car is Jungle Jim Lieberman’s 1973 Vega Funny Car. At 3 p.m. Saturday is the National Fried Mushroom Eating Championship in the Special Events Tent as contestants try to eat the most fried mushrooms in eight minutes (the festival record, set last year, is four pounds) for a $1,000 prize.
The action continues the morning of Sept. 10 with the Mushroom Run and Fun Walk at 8:30 (Registration opens at 7:30). The course starts on South Street, in front of Kennett High School, and follows the Red Clay Creek and past some mushroom houses. The Soup and Wine Event takes over the Special Events Tent at 11 a.m. Sunday as guests vote for the best mushroom soup in the region and sample the area’s local wines. Mushroom judging in the Growers’ Exhibit starts at noon, and the mushrooms are sold starting around 2 p.m. (You’ll need to place an order at the mushroom sales areas). Pick up your mushrooms from the refrigerated trucks near the exits on your way home. The festival wraps up at 5 p.m.
What else is going on in town?
Festival favorites include cooking demonstrations in the Culinary Tent, a mushroom soup sale at the Masonic lodge at Center and Cypress streets, entertainment on the Children’s Stage, a Cute-as-a-Button (Mushroom) Baby Photo Contest, live music on the Community Stage and the Painted Mushroom Silent Auction.
6-ABC’s Katherine Scott makes an appearance in the Special Events Tent from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Sept. 9.
The festival also features nearly 250 vendors, with everything from grilled portabellas, to wraps and ravioli, to mushroom ice cream, to mushroom-inspired sculptures, mushroom jewelry, clothing and more.
Does it cost anything to get in?
Admission is $3 for ages 12+. Please note pets are not allowed. Each guest gets a souvenir wristband. Proceeds benefit local and regional nonprofits through the Mushroom Festival Grant program. This year local organizations received $86,100 in grants to help the community.
Where do I park?
You probably figured out that Route 1 is the best way to get there, but be advised that there will be detours for the road closures. If you’re using GPS, enter 101 S. Union St. as the address. Because off-street parking in the borough will fill up fast, follow the red festival parking signs to the satellite parking lots. Shuttle buses will take you into Kennett Square and drop you off at an entrance. If you’re arriving from north and east of Kennett Square, park at the Exelon complex. Buses will drop off at the east entrance. If you’re arriving from south or west of Kennett Square, park at Kennett High School. Buses will drop off at the west entrance. Handicapped parking is available at the parking garage on East Linden Street.
Go to www.mushroomfestival.org for more information.