FES­TI­VAL SMASHES AT­TEN­DANCE MARK

More than 100,000 at­tended 31st an­nual Mush­room Fes­ti­val this week­end

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Fran Maye fmaye@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @ken­nettpa­per on Twit­ter

KEN­NETT SQUARE >> Ideal weather Sun­day, though a bit hot on Satur­day, set the scene for more than 100,000 peo­ple to flock to the 31st an­nual Ken­nett Square Mush­room Fes­ti­val over the week­end.

“From my opin­ion, I think we had a record-break­ing crowd,” said Matt Fet­ick, Ken­nett Square mayor. “I live only a block away from the fes­ti­val, and it was a non-stop steady stream of peo­ple walk­ing past my house. It’s so amaz­ing we can bring in 100,000 plus peo­ple to town and have no prob­lems.”

Kathi Laf­ferty, Mush­room Fes­ti­val or­ga­nizer, termed Satur­day’s weather “bru­tal” but said the crowd was large and happy.

“We had over 250 ven­dors this year, and we have never had that many,” Laf­ferty said. “Peo­ple who came here for the first time were amazed.”

State Sen. Andy Din­ni­man opened the Mush­room Fes­ti­val Satur­day by pre­sent­ing a ci­ta­tion to Lau­rel Val­ley Soils, a co­op­er­a­tive owned by five lo­cal mush­room grow­ers. Lau­rel Val­ley Soils, re­cip-

ient of the U.S. Com­post­ing Coun­cil’s Com­poster of the Year, re­cy­cles and re­pur­poses prod­ucts used in mush­room pro­duc­tion.

“It was a lit­tle hot Satur­day, but even at 10 a.m., the streets were al­ready packed,” Din­ni­man said. “it’s fas­ci­nat­ing when you think about it, that this fes­ti­val has be­come one of the top 10 rated na­tional fes­ti­vals. Peo­ple come from all over the United States to come to this fes­ti­val.”

Dan Maf­fei, Ken­nett Square coun­cil pres­i­dent, said he was im­pressed to see the num­ber of peo­ple come to the fes­ti­val. He said he no­ticed the fes­ti­val had ex­panded fur­ther west on State Street.

At the Mush­room Fes­ti­val in­for­ma­tion booth, the most com­mon ques­tions were where the re­strooms were lo­cated and where the ATM was lo­cated. But there were quite a few peo­ple who com­plained that the ma­jor­ity of ven­dors did not take credit cards. As a re­sult, the ATM ran out of cash early on Sun­day.

On Satur­day, the Na­tional Fried Mush­room Eat­ing Cham­pi­onship at the Spe­cial Events Tent at­tracted quite a crowd. This year there was an am­a­teur di­vi­sion, and a $200 prize went to the per­son who de­voured 4.5 pounds of fresh breaded mush­rooms in eight min­utes. The world record is 11.5 pounds, set in 2014. The con­test served as a qual­i­fy­ing event of the World Food Cham­pi­onships to be held in At­lanta.

Fes­ti­val fa­vorites this year in­clude the Grow­ers’ Ex­hibit, the Cute-asa-But­ton Baby Photo Con­test, the Painted Mush­room Silent Auc­tion and the An­tique and Clas­sic Car Show.

Din­ni­man called the Mush­room Fes­ti­val one of Ch­ester County’s pre­mier events.

“Ken­nett Square has re­ally, re­ally suc­cess­fully re­vived it­self and it is truly evolv­ing as the cap­i­tal of the mush­room in­dus­try,” Din­ni­man said. “Good things are hap­pen­ing right now in Ken­nett Square. It has used the mush­room agri­cul­ture which sur­rounds the bor­ough as the key to its re­newal. And that is re­ally cool.”

Fet­ick said de­spite the huge crowd, there were no ar­rests, and no prob­lems.

“There were no in­ci­dents, no ar­rests, and I credit the Mush­room Fes­ti­val or­ga­niz­ers,” Fet­ick said. “It’s a great fund raiser to give back to so many non-prof­its.”

Pro­ceeds from the al­lvol­un­teer Mush­room Fes­ti­val are dis­trib­uted to a wide va­ri­ety of lo­cal char­i­ties and or­ga­ni­za­tions ben­e­fit­ing the res­i­dents of south­ern Ch­ester County. The fes­ti­val awarded $80,000 to lo­cal non-prof­its in 2015 from 2014 pro­ceeds. More than $805,000 has been awarded in grants since 2000 through the Mush­room Fes­ti­val grant pro­gram.

CHRIS BARBER — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Con­tes­tants in the mush­room eat­ing con­test try to con­sume the most and win the prize.

FRAN MAYE — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple flocked to the Mush­room Fes­ti­val in Ken­nett Square over the week­end.

CHRIS BARBER — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Con­tes­tants for “Cute as a But­ton” marched with their par­ents in the pa­rade.

CHRIS BARBER — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Ev­ery­one looks for­ward to the gourmet dog bis­cuit booth at the fes­ti­val.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

State Sen. Andy Din­ni­man, third from left, presents a ci­ta­tion to Lau­rel Val­ley Soils dur­ing the open­ing cer­e­mony of the Mush­room Fes­ti­val on Satur­day morn­ing.

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