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Tony and Anya Gonzales exchange wedding vows during the 20th Annual Ohio Pawpaw Fest on Sept. 15, 2018 at Lake Snowden.

Ohio Pawpaw Festival celebrates 20th year

The Ohio Pawpaw Festival wrapped up yet another successful weekend for the 20th year in a row. 

The weekend-long event, which took place at Lake Snowden in Albany, attracted a large number of people for its landmark celebration. Spear-throwing, pawpaw-flavored beer and even a wedding were among some of the festivities that happened over the weekend.

Passion Works Studio, which is also celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, officially collaborated with the Pawpaw Festival for the first time.

“We grew up together,” Patty Mitchell, the executive director and founder of Passion Works Studio, said. 

Although Passion Works Studio had previously contributed to the festival by making balloons and other decor, this is the first year the studio has done decorations for the festival. This year, the studio made everything from pawpaw decorations on the stage for musicians, to the awards for contests, including the pawpaw eating contest and best beer.

The Pawpaw Festival had a range of activities for participants to engage in, from a bike ride to spear-throwing, as well as many rides and activities for children. Foods of all sorts were available, many of which incorporated pawpaw like ice cream, cookies, cakes, smoothies, sorbets and even beer.

There were also plenty of shops to buy memorabilia, pawpaw-related or otherwise. Handmade pots and pans, herbal teas, books, frames and tie-dye shirts were just a few of the items for sale. 

There were also pawpaw-themed quilts, shirts and tiaras for those willing to make their love for the mushy fruit known.

Two newly wed individuals made their love for each other known at the festival by having their wedding take place at the center. Although a festival celebrating a fruit might not seem to be an obvious location for a wedding, it made sense for the couple because they had met there five years previously.

Ron Powell, the president of the North American Pawpaw Growers Association, comes to the pawpaw festival to educate people about all aspects of the fruit, from planting the seeds to selling the final product.

Only able to grow in eastern North America, the pawpaw tree usually takes seven to eight years to produce fruit, but it can be grafted to take half that time, Powell said. Once it starts producing fruit, however, it can continue doing so for more than 25 years.

Although it may not be to everyone’s tastes, the pawpaw has a distinct flavor and texture that makes it stand apart from more traditional fruits. Lilah Gagne, a freshman majoring in journalism who enjoys the fruit, described it as a “banana-apple-mango.” 

Gagne has been going to the Pawpaw Festival for as long as she can remember and has camped there in previous years. 

“Everybody’s just really chill,” Gagne said. “It’s just a giant community.” 

Mitchell’s words closely echoed Gagne’s. 

“I just love how chill it is, and that we all circle around the pawpaw like it’s some mythical thing,” she said. “And it is!”


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