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'Forgotten fruit' unleashed at Pawpaw Festival

While Ohio University’s fest season has shifted, one festival is returning right on schedule.

This weekend, Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Area Program will present the 14th annual Pawpaw Festival in Albany, Ohio.

The festival celebrates the pawpaw fruit, the largest tropical fruit in North America. The “forgotten fruit” is far from forgotten at the festival, where it is used in cooking, flavors beer and takes center stage in a “pulp-slurping contest.”

Aside from showcasing the pawpaw fruit, the festival features live music, art contests, a kid’s station and more. Chris Chmiel, one of the festival’s coordinators, said the event has something for everyone.

“To me, one of the most important things is that it’s a tradition. It’s a family festival,” Chmiel said. “We have something for the whole family, and it’s laid-back. People just seem to have a really good time.”

In addition to the vendors, the Friends of the Shelter Dogs will return again this year, presenting “Paws at the Pawpaw,” an event adjacent to the main festival especially for canine guests and their owners.

Festival goers experienced a year without dogs last year after complications with the event’s growth made it difficult to provide a safe environment. After the Friends of The Shelter Dogs created a separate area, the festival will offer Paws at the Pawpaw again this year.

“There are quite a few people who have not been able to bring dogs, and some were turned away last year,” said Karen Pilcher, a coordinator at Friends of the Shelter Dogs. “This will bring those people back. The festival is fun for the family, and dogs are a part of that.”

While the festival is five miles from the city of Athens, OU’s Office of Sustainability is providing shuttles to and from the university and festival. This will allow OU students without cars to attend and promotes car sharing, said Annie Laurie Cadmus, director of sustainability.

“Pawpaw Express is a great kick-off event for our office so we can showcase our commitment to celebrating Southeast Ohio,” Cadmus said. “The Office of Sustainability hosts the Pawpaw Express in an effort to encourage car sharing in and around the Athens area.”

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