Ohio University students, Athens residents and visitors will taste and celebrate a local fruit with an interesting history this weekend.
The 19th Annual Ohio Pawpaw Festival will be held from Friday to Sunday at Lake Snowden, where visitors will eat and learn about the pawpaw as well as listen to music, participate in different activities and try everything pawpaw.
The founder and organizer of the Pawpaw Festival, Chris Chmiel, plans to make the festival “authentically pawpaw.”
What: 19th Annual Ohio Pawpaw Festival
When: 4.p.m., Friday; 10 a.m., Saturday; 10 a.m., Sunday
Where: Lake Snowden, 5900 US-50, Albany
Admission: $15 for a one-day pass; $30 for a weekend pass; children 12 and under free
Pawpaws, a tropical fruit native to eastern United States, has long been a part of Ohio. In 1916, the American Genetics Association had a competition for the best pawpaw and most of them came from southern Ohio.
Athens and southeast Ohio is home to some of the best, “naturally-occurring” pawpaws in the world, Chmiel said.
The pawpaw became the official state fruit native to Ohio in 2009, and the Ohio Pawpaw Fest had an influential role in that, Chmiel said.
“Pawpaws are one of the coolest, native plants we have in the region,” Chmiel said. “(The Pawpaw Festival) is a great way to celebrate something that people can enjoy on a bike ride or on a hike. They can find them and discover their sweet smell.”
Pawpaws are also very nutritious, Chmiel said, containing more vitamins and nutrients than apples, bananas and oranges.
From every dish being served containing pawpaw to a pawpaw mascot greeting visitors, the festival will have different opportunities to experience the fruit such as pawpaw eating and cooking contests.
Chmiel also hinted at the possibility of a new baby pawpaw mascot this year.
The Pawpaw Festival will also have different food vendors, each offering a different pawpaw dish. Michelle Wasserman, the food vendor coordinator of the festival, will be selling jackfruit pawpaw tamales at Nixtamalized. Other food vendors, such as Chelsea’s Real Food, Mauvette’s, 100% Grassfed and Holy Guacamole will all offer different foods containing the pawpaw.
Stick It Concessions will sell pawpaw cotton candy, a new dish to the festival.
“When you have 18 different food vendors, and everybody is required to bring at least one pawpaw dish,” Wasserman said. “That’s at least 18 different pawpaw foods you can try.”
Beside tasting and celebrating the pawpaw, visitors will be able to participate in different activities, such as a new kayak slalom course on Lake Snowden. Recreational enthusiasts can participate in the Pawpaw Double Nickel Bicycle Ride that will go around Zaleski State Forest, or race in the 2nd annual Pawpaw 4 Miler and 1 mile fun run/walk.
The Pawpaw Festival will also offer pawpaw beer, made from nine different microbreweries, such as Jackie O’s and Little Fish Brewing Company.
Emma Raulinaitis, a senior studying exercise physiology went to the Pawpaw Festival and thought it was super cool. When she went, she was upset she wasn’t 21 and could not try the pawpaw beer.
“I had never had pawpaw before, never heard about it until the pawpaw fest so I liked trying that,” Raulinaitis said. “I also liked how they had all these informational booths with water treatment ideas, agriculture plans they had. That was cool to read.”
In addition to different educational booths, the Pawpaw Festival will also have speakers discussing different topics, such as how to incorporate pawpaws into a healthy diet and agroforestry, livestock and pawpaws.
Madison Sweeney, a sophomore studying education and integrated social studies has never been to previous pawpaw festivals, but is going this weekend.
“I’ve never been so I’m really excited. I know it’s a type of fruit, but I’m not sure what type it is so I’m interested to see what it’s going to be like,” Sweeney said.
Music will also be played during the festival by bands such as Almighty Get Down and other punk, reggae and folk music.
Tickets cost $15 for a one-day pass and $30 for the weekend pass. The festival is free for children under the age of 12 and discounted for guests older than 60. Visitors can camp for the weekend at Lake Snowden, costing $15 for one night and $22 for the weekend.
“I pretty much guarantee that people will have a good time,” Chmiel said.