FESTIVAL SMASHES ATTENDANCE MARK
More than 100,000 attended 31st annual Mushroom Festival this weekend
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.
Contestants in the mushroom eating contest try to consume the most and win the prize.
Tens of thousands of people flocked to the Mushroom Festival in Kennett Square over the weekend.
Contestants for “Cute as a Button” marched with their parents in the parade.
Everyone looks forward to the gourmet dog biscuit booth at the festival.
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.