The world’s largest pawpaw festival will have a few more events for attendees to look forward to.
The 18th annual Ohio Pawpaw Festival will take place this weekend at Lake Snowden in Albany. The purpose of the festival is to educate the attendees about pawpaws by blending art, delectable foods, entertainment and crafts provided by local businesses. The event also includes a wealth of family-friendly and hands-on activities for kids, including inflatable bounce houses and an obstacle course.
A one-day pass is $15. A weekend-pass is $30, and children 12 and under can attend for free.
Festival events include the pawpaw eating contest, a cook-off and Jeopardy games. The festival will also feature entertainment with nine different microbrewers present, performances by Rusted Root and Tom Eaton as well as a presentation by keynote speaker Lyle Estill about sustainability.
The festival has new additions this year, such as a four-mile run organized by Southeastern Ohio Trail Runners, an effort by Ohio University’s Campus Recycling to build the world’s largest cardboard fort and a renewable energy regatta boat race, all of which will take place Saturday.
Chris Chmiel, the lead organizer of the Pawpaw Festival, said the new events mixed in with the traditional ones will draw in larger audiences while tying into the educational theme the event aims to employ.
“This run and regatta serve as great additions, which will both bring in new people,” Chmiel, who is also an Athens County commissioner, said. “These new events consist of substantial-minded education, which (is) a theme we aim to display for our audience.”
The pawpaw, also known as the Asimina triloba, stands out because of its rich and creamy texture. It is North America’s largest native tree fruit, and it is related to 2,100 tropical fruits. The fruit, which is the official state fruit of Ohio, grows in 25 states east of the Mississippi River.
Kelly Messerly, a digital content manager for Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Athens stands out on a local and national scale for its diverse supply of pawpaw fruit.
“Pawpaw fruit is something that has been a part of a culture for a long time,” Messerly said. “The Pawpaw Fest is a great opportunity ... to show an audience the rich array of this fruit.”
Michael Owen, founder and president of the Southeastern Ohio Trail Runners, said the addition of the four-mile run provides a lane for healthy activity.
“This run serves as a good addition to the festival, especially since Athens is known for their strong running culture,” he said. “Festgoers will get to invest in their health by partaking in this run.”
Owen said the Pawpaw Festival is a good venue for Southeastern Ohio Trail Runners to garner publicity from markets around Ohio and to collaborate with organizations with good causes.
Chmiel said the family-friendly environment of the festival has been crucial in enabling it to achieve success.
“It’s a nice and laid-back community event that is very affordable,” he said. “There are people coming from all over the country, and I believe they will all have a good time.”
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Chris Chmiel's last name. The article has been updated to show the most accurate information.