Record attendance for annual Mushroom Festival

Staff photo by Fran Maye Organizers say the 28th annual Mushroom Festival set a record for attendance in Kennett Square.

KENNETT SQUARE — Fueled by perfect weather, the 28th annual Mushroom Festival set a record for attendance as tens of thousands of people visited the borough to enjoy live music, see mushroom exhibitions and visit the more than 230 vendors.

“There were a lot of people,” said Kathi Lafferty, festival organizer. “I haven’t heard any figures yet, but most of the vendors said they did very well. And there was a record number of sales on Saturday.”

Lafferty said the weather played a large role for the success of the festival.

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“This was the first time in nine years there wasn’t a threat of rain,” she said, “and that’s the big part of the whole event.”

Carla Hall, host of ABC’s “The Chew” and a former “Top Chef” contestant, was a huge draw.

Local chefs were also represented, including Brett Hulbert of Portabello’s of Kennett Square, Alfred Jackson of Kennett Square Inn, and Jack Mavraj of La Verona.

Mavraj wowed the crowds with his homemade angelotti pasta with exotic mushrooms, braised short ribs and a mushroom-truffle glaze.

And TV show “American Idol” filmed in Kennett Square during the festival, and the Huffington Post filmed the annual mushroom eating contest.

“This year was better than ever,” said Leon Spencer, a borough councilman and lead singer in “Good Foot, which played Friday night as people danced in the streets after the Mushroom Festival parade. “Folks turned out in big numbers and the weather was cooperative. There are a lot of positive things going on in Kennett Square and it seems people are working together as one big team. It’s a great thing to be a part of.”

The festival this year extended from Willow Street to Meredith Street.

“It has to (expand) because more people are coming,” said Larry Bosley, who owns The Liberty Place on State Street. “It’s getting bigger all the time. We had a lot of people get exposure to the market and now they know we’re here. I heard a lot of nice comments (about the festival).

Bosley, whose building features several eateries, said there was a long line for the ladies rest room all weekend long.

“The line went out the door,” he said. “But that’s great because it brought people into the building.”

Despite the large number of people, there were no reports of trouble, said Kennett Square Police Cpl. Richard Bell.

“It’s the biggest crowd we’ve ever had,” Bell said. “We only had one incident, but it occurred outside the festival and it involved a fight and had nothing to do with the festival. We had a few reports of lost children, but all were reunited with their parents.

Bell said he was amazed to see so many people.

“We’ve never had this many people in town for this festival,” he said.

Karen Ferrari of Kennett Square, who found it hard to navigate the street without bumping into people, said she was surprised to see the large crowd.

“I’ve never seen so many people here on a Sunday,” she said.

Popular attractions were the mushroom growing exhibit, the carnival for children, the classic and antique car contest and the national fried mushroom eating contest. The farm tours were sold out both days.

Proceeds from the Mushroom Festival benefit local charities in southern Chester County.

Last year, the Mushroom Festival donated $65,000 to 41 area nonprofit agencies.

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