Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pawpaws to the People! Part 2

About 2 PM, we finally got to Pawpaw Festival, situated on a pleasant lake just a few miles from Adam's house. Upon entry, you're immediately flanked with booths that have little to do with pawpaws specifically, but a lot to do with the underlying bigger picture, solar displays, solar oven displays, nurseries hawking their wares, the Athens Bicycle Co-Op, and the like. That's cool and all, and I'm down with cause, but I'm wondering where are the pawpaws when midway through the info booths I find this totally choice piece of pawpaw paraphenalia, a pawpaw plushie! See picture. Yet still no real deal pawpaws. Nearing the end of the booths, I felt we were getting closer when we found the Pawpaw Beer Tent. The pawpaw beer, an American wheat style that went perfectly with the low summer sun rays, is a tradition at the Fest. Also making its debut in the Beer Tent was the Ohio Spicebush Golden Ale. However, the Golden Ale was repeatedly trumped by the Pawpaw Wheat and I never even had a taste.

So like Wendy's asking, "where's the beef?" I'm like asking, "where's the pawpaws?" After a quick pint, Sarah and I ditch our guests for the elusive hunt. On the other side of the field where the Beer Tent was located, we finally find them in the form of Chris Chmiel's Integration Acres display booth. Chris is the organizer of the Pawpaw Fest and could be decribed as a Pawpaw Guru. He was selling pawpaws by the pound and some pawpaw flavored ice pops and of course had samples to try.

Across from Chris, the non-profit, Ohio Pawpaw Grower's Association (OPGA) had their booth with informative facts and handouts and lots of varieties of pawpaws to sample. The perhaps father and son team were just calling out cultivars and cutting up the samples, somewhat haphazardly and definitely not scientifically, but it was a quick and dirty way to mill through many of the pawpaw flavor nuances.

And across from OPGA, we found the Official Pawpaw Festival Tent. At the Festival Tent, one could buy t-shirts, try and buy the labeled samples of different pawpaws (my fave was the Susquehanna), and listen to assorted lectures on pawpaws. I went to the Grower's Seminar, given by Ron Powell. I don't believe it was Ron's intention, however, his lecture could have been titled, "101 Problems with Growing Pawpaws," complete with slides of all sorts of caterpillars, other bugs, critters, cows, and natural disasters like windstorms. At least, I know what to look out for when starting my patches.

Meanwhile, Sarah took part in the community yoga practice from Inhale Yoga, and Sarah and Adam hung out with their mountain bike polo friends. In the early evening, the beer tent seemed to have gotten the crowd just riled up enough for some old fashioned square dancing. The crowd being comprised mostly of twenty to forty somethings, looking like natural crossovers between crust punks and hippies with tatts, patches, tie-dyes, suspenders, and meatless boots.

We got out of the Festival around 8 PM. We had had our fill of pawpaws, and Adam and I needed to get a second wind for the Makebelieves rock show at the Union that night. I left determined to plant several small orchards here in Cleveland of this remarkable fruit. I also left with a certain contentedness after experiencing this post-mining New Wave of Appalachia that's looking future-forward to solar not coal and local food, while giving its nods to the old ways like bluegrass and canning.

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