The annual Ohio Pawpaw Festival was held at Lake Snowden this weekend and included various local goods with everything from food vendors to small businesses and educative tents focusing on nature. But the real star of the show was Ohio’s very own native pawpaw fruit.
The pawpaw trees are the largest edible fruit trees native to North America, according to Serious Eats. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the fruit is found throughout all of Ohio and most of the Eastern U.S.
The Ohio Pawpaw Festival is hosted to celebrate and enjoy everything the pawpaw has to offer. Tickets for the festival ranged from $20 to $60. Once festival goers were admitted, they were permitted to purchase items.
Attendees were able to taste a various delicacies focused around the pawpaw and take home some of their favorite artwork centered around the fruit. Live bands could be heard playing all afternoon with different groups from the region as well as small artisans selling a variety of different products. All in all, the variety of different attractions made for a ‘pawp’-some time.
Emily Cline, a Pawpaw Festival artist, said this was her third year of selling artwork at the festival and that she really enjoyed coming back every year to sell her products.
Cline said her work focuses mostly on native fruits, plants and animals of the Athens region so being able to speak with people passionate about those topics made it fun to come back.
“I have a lot of different things you’d find in flora and fauna around here so it’s definitely like my people,” she said. “People who understand my work and connect to it and that's what I really love about it.”
Cline said she was the winner of this year’s contest for best pawpaw artwork. She said the process consisted of submitting a piece of artwork online which would later be reviewed by jurors in person before announcing a winner.
She said it was really important for people to continue supporting festivals that created awareness for local wildlife.
“I think it's great to emphasize the importance of native plants and fruits and especially the pawpaw but emphasizing the importance of native plants,” Cline said.
Katey Patterson, the office manager of United Plant Savers, said she first worked a stand at the festival in 2015 where she then took a break but has continued to hold a stand since 2021.
The United Plant Savers acts as a non-profit that focuses on the conservation of native medicinal plants at risk. They hold a botanical sanctuary outside of Athens, about 370 acres of land.
Patterson said it was great to interact with people at the Pawpaw Festival who get excited about the type of work she does.
“I think it’s really just the community support,” she said. “I’ve been to a lot of music festivals and other community gatherings but this one is so focused on plants that it’s really cool. It’s like a whole festival that thousands of people come to just about a plant but also the community which is really cool.”
Chris Anderson, an ecological landscaper and Pawpaw Festival attendee, said this is his third year coming and that he has known the founders of the festival for a very long time.
Anderson said he believes it is essentially to raise awareness about wildlife's disappearance within communities and take small steps to conserve the environment at home.
“One of the things I like to do is I raised caterpillars and so that’s helped me to understand how important it is to have native plants on our properties,” he said. “ You know, having a park here and a park here and a park here is cool but a lot of those critters need bridges between those and so I believe that planting those plants in our yards helps to bridge and create habitat for the microfauna.”
He said he enjoys talking to people who understand nature and speak the ecological language.
“I like to interact with other people who are inspired by how people and nature connect,” Anderson said. “I’ve always liked pawpaws and it’s a fun environment.”