KENNETT SQUARE - A record crowd of an estimated more than 100,000 people attended this weekend's 27th annual Mushroom Festival, prompting officials to call it the best festival ever.
On Sunday afternoon, East State Street was so packed it was hard to navigate without people bumping into each other. Fair officials didn't anticipate such a huge crowd because the $2 wristband nearly sold out.
'This was the best festival ever,' said Kathi Lafferty, Mushroom Festival coordinator. 'It was a record crowd. It was amazing. Everything just came together.'
The event's first mushroom eating contest, won by Jamie McDonald who ate five pounds, was a big draw and will return next year, organizers said.
'Everybody is raving about the eating contest,' Lafferty said. 'It was a huge success.'
Despite the crowd, police officials reported no problems. There were two lost children, but they quickly found an officer and they were reunited with their parents within 10 minutes.
'Both days we had a couple of people go missing but we quickly found them,' said Ed Zunino, Kennett Square police chief. 'Everything went smoothly. There were no problems.'
'I think it's amazing that we have no incidents with that many people,' Lafferty said.
Sunday's crowd easily beat Saturday's crowd. Some vendors closed early then when a storm swept through the area.
At the information booth, the most asked question was the location of the Farm Tour, followed closely with the location of the restrooms. The Farm Tour sold out.
Vendors - more than 200 of them - were busy both days. Lines were long all day for the breaded mushrooms.
'The vendors tell me they have never seen a Sunday like this, and they have been coming for years,' Lafferty said. 'Everybody was so excited, and the vendors say they will all be coming back next year.'
The QVC Network broadcast live on Sunday from State and Union streets. This year's festival will be featured on the Food Network's All American Festival show. Travelocity.com rates the Kennett Square Mushroom Festival as one of the top 10 festivals in Pennsylvania.
'It's all about community and people coming together,' Lafferty said. 'I talked to the kids and they said they would be back next year. They are volunteering and it's teaching them about community.'
All proceeds from the festival benefit local and regional nonprofit organizations through the Mushroom Festival Grant program. Last year 33 local organizations received $55,000 in grants.
Some of the local organizations that received funding from the Mushroom Festival last year include The Kennett Senior Center, Tick Tock Early Learning Center, Good Neighbors Home Ministry, Domestic Violence Center, Historic Kennett Square, Camp Dreamcatcher, Spanish Health Ministry, The Garage Youth Center and Kennett Fire Company.