By: Lisa Bicknell
Local organizers are saying the 30th Annual Mountain Mushroom Festival was once again a great success.
Temperature swings have been common over the festival’s 30 year history, with everything from spring wind storms, cold snaps when snow flurries flew, and warm sunny days, but this year was—hot. In fact, the ambulance service had to be called a few times to pick up folks who had fainted from the heat.
Other than that, most everything else went off without a hitch.
On Monday, Festival Chair Francine Bonny was busy attending to all the details involved in wrapping up the event—paying bills, counting money and storing everything away for next year.
She said the number of morels brought to the mushroom market were not as plentiful as they have been in some years. About 95 pounds of morels were sold at the market for $100 a pound. The largest mushroom measured nine inches tall and seven inches around.
Carhartt was the Grand Marshal of this year’s Mountain Mushroom Festival parade. The company was scheduled to be the grand marshal in 2020, but the festival did not happen in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic.
However, the timing was appropriate because this year marks the 90th year anniversary of Carhartt coming to Estill County.
Several retirees from the Carhartt company rode a float designed and built by company employees. The retirees displayed small signs with the number of years they’d worked for Carhartt.
Company officials, some of whom were from Dearborn, Michigan, and employees were presented a cake on Saturday afternoon, a token of appreciation for the positive changes the company has brought to the community over the decades.
Despite the green bridge being closed, traffic was not a problem during the festival. Attendance was comparable to other years, but Irvine Police Chief John Sturniolo estimated that traffic volume in town was down 40 to 50 percent due to people using the school bus shuttle from the high school into town.
Bonny said the bus shuttle was full many times throughout the day.
In fact, the closing of the green bridge could have been a bit of a blessing in disguise, she said. One vendor who has been coming to the festival for years told her he didn’t know that there was a bypass until this year.
People attended the festival from as far away as California, Montana, Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio.
Several who came for the agate hunts were also from out of state. Bonny said people were turned away from the hunts because there was a limited number of guides. There were last minute requests for vendor space that had to be declined, also.
One big factor in the long-running success of the festival is the willingness of the festival committee to listen to suggestions and incorporate change if they can.
Before they leave, vendors complete a survey, or booth evaluation, where they have opportunity to offer comment. Most vendors rated their booth experience 4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 5, with five being the most favorable response.
On Monday, Bonny had received a thank you email from a festival goer who talked about how he’d had a wonderful time. He also said that the Mushroom Festival is one of the best festivals he has ever attended.
There was broad participation from many local civic groups, from the pancake breakfast to informational booths.
Bonny said she is very pleased with the community’s involvement, and she’s happy to see the festival bring benefits to some churches and civic organizations.
Scouts and church groups charged for parking and raised money for their respective groups. Funds were raised for prom by parking at the Citizen Guaranty Bank.
Bonny is also happy to see some younger individuals stepping up to help with the festival.
“We want more younger people involved,” she said, “because we want to make sure we keep this going. This couldn’t be done without all the community support.”
In addition, the car show, organized by the Twin City Kruzers, was well attended with 104 entries, which is near their record number of entries.
There were 78 entries in the photo contest; 68 in the 18 and over category, and 10 in the 18 and under category.