As summer comes to an end, there’s no better way to kick off the beginning of fall than in the pawpaw capital of the world— Lake Snowden.
For 21 consecutive years, the Ohio Pawpaw Festival has brought in people from all over for a weekend full of pawpaw-themed music, food and art as well as topics related to sustainability. The festival is a celebration of the pawpaw, a native Southern Ohio fruit that has a creamy texture with a tropical flavor. Many local vendors create pawpaw-related art, while food vendors whip up pawpaw-themed dishes.
A long line of cars slowly rolled into the Lake Snowden grounds, parking on any available grassy spot. The festival’s layout had all the artisans, crafters, farmers and non-profit vendors on the front half of the grounds, while a children’s area, the beer garden, a music stage and food trucks filled the back half.
Attendees could find everything from candles made out of beeswax to locally made ceramics. As visitors would walk around the grounds, different tents would hold handcrafted jewelry, take home bags of pawpaws and even find a butterfly tent to check out.
While grazing through the many distinct booths, one might find themselves at Kelly Lawrence’s tent for her business, Green Mantle Studio. Lawrence specializes in ceramic sculptures with an emphasis on Celtic design. Her booth held items such as hand sculpted mugs, ceramic leaf face masks and pawpaw earrings.
Lawrence has vended at the pawpaw festival for at least 18 years and continues to enjoy the laid-back vibe of the Athens County fall favorite.
“It’s beautiful out here. I get to see all my friends and the people who run it are very sweet,” Lawrence said. “I always start the summer with the Nelsonville Music Festival, and end it with the pawpaw festival.”
Some of the more popular tents included Snowville Creamery’s with its pawpaw-flavored ice cream and free samples of the business’ chai latte and chocolate milk. Another crowd favorite was the beer garden. Two long lines held guests eager to try the different pawpaw infused beers crafted by local brewers.
Several beers included Devil’s Kettle’s refreshingly-tart golden ale with coriander, a hint of sea salt and a generous dose of pawpaw puree, Jackie O’s Brewery’s imperial wheat fermented with 400 lbs of locally harvested pawpaw fruit and Weasel Boy Brewing Company’s English-style pale with 20 pounds of pawpaw and Ohio honey.
If one wasn’t in line for a pawpaw beer, they were at the merchandise tent purchasing pawpaw festival attire. This year’s hoodies and T-shirts donned an illustration of Bigfoot with 2019 Ohio Pawpaw Festival written across the front. Shirts from years past were also being sold with different animals sported on the front, including a possum, raccoon and a fly.
Alicia Klohn, a junior studying international business and marketing, has volunteered at the merchandise tent the past two years because of how friendly the staff is and the different people she meets while helping them find the perfect pawpaw attire.
“People who come up to me are really cool, and I have good conversations with them,” Klohn said. “It’s a really good festival for any age because there’s just something for everyone.”
Perhaps the biggest attraction of the pawpaw festival is the numerous food trucks and their distinct pawpaw dishes. The different foods range from pawpaw cotton candy, pawpaw-infused tamales, pawpaw adobo chicken and much more.
Kylee Nichols and her friend, Miranda Cain, both volunteered with Rural Action while at the festival. After their shift, they made their way to the food trucks. Cain had never been to the pawpaw festival before, but she was eager to explore.
“I love it so far,” Cain said. “It’s great to see all the different foods and see what the community has up. I had no idea there was so much food here.”
Nichols’ favorite part of the festival might be the large array of pawpaw foods, but she also admires all of the local art and culture placed conveniently in one place.
“I think it’s really great they do this and bring a marketplace here,” Nichols said. “There’s also like, every organization and business ever here, so it’s cool to see what’s in town and Athens County that you don’t actually see near campus.”