• By Derek Morris
  • Posted Monday, August 22, 2016

Announcing the 2016 Pawpaw Festival - August 27th!

The first NC Pawpaw Festival was held in 2008 on a very rainy Saturday at the Tanglewood arboretum in Clemmons, NC. Although the weather was not the most cooperative, there were between 80 and 90 people in attendance. In fairness, it did clear off around noon, and the day turned out to be beautiful.

The festival would not have happened without the efforts of many people, including the then Horticulture Agent Craig Mauney, Forsyth County Master Gardener Jim Nottke, and pawpaw grower Michael Williams from Mocksville. Many other Extension staff members also contributed their time, energy, and expertise to this event. Milton Parker, a retired Extension Agent and pawpaw enthusiast came all the way from White Lake, NC. Of course, the festival would not have been (or continue to be) possible without the efforts of the Extension Master Gardener Volunteers (EMGVs), who annually staff almost the entire event with their dedicated volunteers.

The festival, which has become an annual event, has moved its locations several times since its first year. Past events have been held at the Dixie Classic Farmers Market, as well as the Jack Warren Park in Lewisville, NC. Currently, the festival is held at the Forsyth County Agriculture Building, the home of Cooperative Extension. Festival participants enjoy this location for several reasons, but its main attraction is the orchard of over 30 collected pawpaw varieties. During the festival, EMGVs give tours of the orchard, and folks are able to see actual fruit hanging from the boughs.

The Pawpaw Festival, which has grown significantly in attendance each year, was started to raise awareness of North America's largest native tree fruit and to share a possible commodity with farmers looking to add unique produce to their offerings. Afterall, the pawpaw is delicious and cherished by many. The flavor profile is wide and can include banana, mango, pineapple, and vanilla. The tree is also easily grown and requires no spraying -- an organic farmer's dream.

Mary Jac Brennan, a Forsyth County Extension Agent who specializes in local foods and small farms, has done an outstanding job presenting the festival in recent years. Vendors from all over North Carolina and Virginia sell pawpaw fruit and trees, as well as other edible and ornamental plants. Last year, we also offered face painting and an exhibit on local butterflies for the children.

Andrew Moore, author of Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit, often attends to speak and sign copies of his book. Local author and former Extension Agent Toby Bost also attends and sells autographed copies of his book, The Carolinas: Gardener’s Guide. Additionally, there are always several speeches given by various pawpaw growers and breeders. For example, Neal Peterson from West Virginia has given speeches on his breeding work with pawpaw and his work in introducing them in Europe.

Of course, attendees most enjoy the free food made with pawpaw. Pawpaw ice cream is a perennial favorite, and it is offered every year. Additionally, there are many varied dishes that change from year-to-year, such as bread, cookies, smoothies, milk shakes, cake, and ham spreads to name a few. Local chefs often give cooking demonstrations during the festival to highlight other ways to use pawpaw in delicious dishes.

The 2016 Pawpaw Festival will be Saturday, August 27 from 10am - 1pm at 1450 Fairchild Road. For more information, please contact Derek Morris or Mary Jac Brennan at 336-703-2850.

See flyer for details

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