By LISA BICKNELL
CV&T News Editor
Although it was a hot weekend for April, people turned out in droves for the Mountain Mushroom Festival, now in its 27th year.
One of the few factors festival organizers cannot control, the weather was mostly cooperative. Some gusty conditions on Friday night damaged or even destroyed a few tents and canopies, but rain held off on both Saturday and Sunday evenings until after festival hours.
Francine Bonny, festival chair, said a map was kept at the t-shirt booth to track where visitors came from. This year, that ranged from Maine to Utah, and many other states in between.
In Kentucky, they came from Paducah to Pikeville.
The economic impact of the festival is sometimes questioned by locals, but some students from EKU were out and about surveying festival vendors and others to get a clearer picture about that. Bonny said she is looking forward to reading their findings.
Some need no convincing though. Marsha Porter at Rader’s River Grille told Bonny her restaurant was “slammed” during the festival and in the days leading up to it.
Area camping spots and accommodations were also in hot demand, and local restaurants and gas stations appeared busy.
Once again, this year’s agate hunt was very popular. Bonny said interest in the agate hunts is so high that they have had to limit the number of people who can go.
All three days of the hunt, that number was “maxed out,” with ten going each day to hunt in rougher terrain, and 30 hunting in easier terrain.
Rock hounds came from 14 states, and many commented on how beautiful the area is, Bonny said.
Local members of the South East Kentucky Rock, Gem and Mineral Club guided the agate hunts.
The Twin City Kruzers car show was also a big hit. Tommy “Tobo” Bryant said there were 97 official entries, possibly a record-breaking number.
For days, the Estill County fairgrounds was filled with folks displaying antique gas engines, tractors, and other wares. Many of them camp there and look forward to coming every year.
Some of the arts and crafts vendors are surprised at the number of people who come to the festival, given the local population, Bonny said, but the festival committee budgets around $4,000 each year to promote the event on Lexington television stations, radio stations, and in several area publications.
It is also publicized in several specialty publications, particularly those of the gem and mineral club and the antique and gas engine clubs.
While there are always a few “glitches,” Bonny expressed her appreciation for the city employees and police who help keep everything running smoothly.
“Overall, I feel like we accomplished our goal-to show what a wonderful community we have, and to entice everyone to come back,” she said. The goal of festival organizers is for the Mountain Mushroom Festival to be considered as one of the top festivals in the state.
When the festival was first started, much of the registration took place by mail or by phone call, but much of it happens online now, so plans have to be firmed up by late January or early February.
On Monday, Bonny and the committee chairs were busy as ever, only this time they were counting money, evaluating, and planning how to make things better, a process that never really stops. They will soon meet again to brainstorm ideas for making next year’s festival better.