Mushroom Festival coming this weekend

Photo by Chris Barber Visitors at last year's mushroom festival survey the offerings on State Street.

KENNETT SQUARE -- There’s a new attraction at the Kennett Square Mushroom Festival this year — a mushroom eating contest featuring five professional eaters.

The 27th annual Mushroom Festival will take place Sept. 8 and 9. Tens of thousands of people typically flock to Kennett Square during the festival.

“I have been wanting to try a mushroom eating contest for some time,” said Kathi Lafferty, festival coordinator. “I thought we’d have some fun with it. It’s on the same lines as the Wing Bowl.”

Seventeen contestants will eat cooked, breaded mushrooms beginning at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, at the special events tent on Willow and East State streets. At stake is $1,000 in prizes, including $600 for the winner and $300 for the runner-up.

Also new this year, QVC will be setting up a remote satellite and will be broadcasting live Sunday afternoon.

“This is huge for us,” Lafferty said. “It’s the first time QVC has done a remote for us.”

And Grotto Pizza, popular with beachgoers to Delaware shores, will set up shop at the festival.

A community parade at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, kicks off the Mushroom Festival. The parade starts on Broad Street, goes left on State Street and ends on Center Street.

The carnival is back for the third straight year. Lafferty said it has been a huge success with children.

The antique and classic car show will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 8 on South Broad Street.

The Farm Tour will take place both days. Tickets to the farm tour are available at North Union and Linden streets.

The Mushroom Festival will again feature guest chefs. This year, Antonia Lofaso will share mushroom dishes in the culinary tent. Also appearing is Dana Herbert, winner of TLC’s Cake Boss. Regional chefs scheduled to be on hand include Steve Latona, Darryl Harmon and Barry Sexton. Alfred Jackson of Kennett Square Inn and Brett Hubler of Portabello’s Restaurant will also make an appearance at the culinary tent.

The popular Mushroom Soup Cook-off contest will be held at the Special Events Tent at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 8.

The annual Mushroom Festival Run/Walk returns at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 9. It will start at the Kennett High School. Registration opens at 7 a.m. Race-day registration is $20; early registration is $15.

T-shirts will be given to the first 150 registrants.

Shuttle service will be provided from Exelon to the festival site. Lafferty said she is also working on obtaining parking on the west side of town at Cypress and Mill streets.

Officials planning to attend the festival this year include George Greig, state Secretary of Agriculture, and state reps. Chris Ross, R-158th of East Marlborough, and John Lawrence, R-13th of Franklin.

Admission to the festival is $2. Proceeds benefit many local nonprofit agencies, including the Demon Lights which is helping to fund lights at the athletic complex at Kennett High School. Lafferty said the Mushroom Festival has been contributing $10,000 per year to that program alone.

Last year, $55,000 in grants were awarded to 33 nonprofit organizations. Grant applications for nonprofits will be online at www.mushroomfestival.org the first week of February 2013.

“It’s all coming together,” Lafferty said. “We’ve been fortunate we’ve never had security problems, and we’re hoping for good weather.”