On Sept. 9-10, Kennett Square held its 32nd annual Mushroom Festival. Kennett Square, known as the mushroom capital of the world, provides the United States with over 65 percent of mushrooms consumed every year. Mushroom enthusiasts from near and far flock to the small town festival with an average of 100,000 guests and 250 vendors present at the celebration. Run by over 500 volunteers, staff oversee a plethora of activities during the event including silent auctions, cook-offs, an antique and classic car show, a mushroom exhibit, musical performers, eating contests and much more.
The Mushroom Festival is also known for its contribution to the local community through their grant program. Last year, $81,200 was gifted to local non-profits who in turn use these funds for a variety of causes including education, conservation and food services. In total, the Mushroom Festival has bestowed over $886,000 in the past 17 years to local charitable groups.
David Beech, West Chester University senior music major, praises the grant program. “The Mushroom Grant program means a lot to me personally,” Beech said, “as it is helping to cover expenses for my family’s eleventh annual Jonathan Beech Memorial Concert this coming April 7. Last year we raised over $13,000 for Camp Sunshine in Maine, a retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. This year, we are hoping to raise a similar amount for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which we have also benefited in the past.”
Many organizations seek out the venue to educate the Chester County community. One such organization was the Chester County Farm Bureau. High school student Sara Woodall, who ran the booth for the bureau, said that they, “are trying to inform everyone on Chester County farming and farming information.” Woodall further detailed the importance of mushrooms, stating, “They have a great impact on nutrients to the soil and [they are] a great source of nutrients to humans.” Woodall concluded that West Chester University students would be able to see the bureau make an appearance at next year’s festival.
Cori Trice and Tim Steinhofer, two representatives from the Chester County Conservation District, also detailed how their organization hopes to make their mark through education at the Mushroom Festival. “We’re trying to educate people about how mushroom farms deal with dirty water,” said Trice, “and how the BMP’s (Best Management Practices) work to keep dirty water out of the stream and keep clean water clean.” Their booth included a model on display which contained corresponding pictures and numbers showing standard practices of growing operations in Chester County. Steinhofer disclosed that they hope their booth furthers the district’s message to “educate people about keeping our surface waters here in Chester County clean—particularly as it applies to the Chesapeake and Delaware Bay.” They also mentioned that the Chester County Conservation District takes interns every semester and that they have many volunteer opportunities that welcome West Chester University student participation.
To those who did not attend the Mushroom Festival this year, Beech had this to say: “It’s an experience worth having. Grab a friend, go ahead, and make sure to stop at the cat café while you’re at it.”
Halle Nelson is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies with minors in deaf studies and English literature. She can be reached at HN824858@wcupa.edu.