Festivals (Pig Tales)
(Editor’s note: Dr. Rich Barczewski is an associate professor at Delaware State University.)
As I write this column, I am recuperating from surgery that I had recently to fix a torn ligament in my left knee.
Things are going well but like most things in my life, I had something on my schedule this week that I just could not let go.
So, along with the help of my wonderful wife (and I mean this adjective immensely), on May 4 we made our way to the Howard County Fairgrounds outside of Baltimore to participate in an educational session put on during the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.
If you have never had the chance to attend a livestock festival, you do not know what you are missing.
Throughout my professional career, I have been involved at one level or another with this festival for many years before I took a break from it a couple of years ago.
This particular festival is the largest sheep and wool festival in the country and attracts sheep, crafters, spinners, weavers, and other craftsman from across the country, selling their livestock and products, showing off their skills and meeting and talking to the public.
One of the things that has always excited me about this festival is that it is a great place to meet folks that are interested in sheep and wool.
The amazing thing to me is that the festival is a major volunteer effort as the festival relies on many volunteers who keep the event running.
This year marks the 45th year of the existence of the festival and if you have never been before, it is always held on the first weekend in May and I believe there is now a nominal $5 per person charge to get into the grounds.
Across the country, there are other festivals that promote agriculture in various ways.
I did have the opportunity to attend a pork festival once in Virginia during the years that I was living in that state, to attend graduate school.
That particular festival was “Pork” related and was actually put on by many of the service clubs in the Emporia Virginia area.
Different groups prepared different pork related foods that attendees could sample.
Everything from whole hog barbeque, to grilled pork chops, ham biscuits, sausage biscuits, chitterlings, ham with red-eye gravy, bacon, etc., was available to eat.
That event was more expensive than most other festivals but it also had all the attendees eating both high and low off the hog.
Occasionally on television, I hear of other types of festivals held across the country where a specific food item, be it garlic, onions, strawberries, peaches, apples are featured.
You name it, you can probably find a festival somewhere in the country where that food item is featured.
As a matter of fact it goes far beyond a specific food item.
Try googling food festivals and you will discover numerous sites that list a wide range of festivals in the United States.
Some are listed in state by state indexes that further brake it down to month by month listings.
Some festivals are related to ethnicities, Italian, German, Polish, Caribbean, Greek, African, Irish, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Chinese — or just about any other nationality you can think of.
There are other groupings of specialty foods such as pretzels, ice cream, chocolate, beer, wine and other libations.
In truth, if there is a food or drink that has a special place in a particular location in your state, there may be a festival to celebrate that item.
Whenever I see these events, I cannot help but wonder about all the volunteer hours of work that go into planning these events.
I know they are countless and sometimes thankless hours of work, however, the sacrifices made are often done as a way of promoting something that means a lot to those folks who are involved with the reason for the festivals.
So why not take part in a specialty food festival this year. Use your google engine and search them out to see what festivals may strike your fancy and then get out and enjoy.
It is just one other way to celebrate agriculture in a way that is outside of our typical venues.
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