WARDSBORO -- The 11th Annual Gilfeather Turnip Festival is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 26, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Wardsboro Town Hall and under a big tent, both on Main Street. The free event takes place rain or shine, and is the largest community fundraising event supporting the town's public library.
"The Turnip Festival that draws people together, and over the years, everyone has begin to really look forward to it. I think it's kind of unique. How often do you find a community that celebrates a turnip?" said event chair Carol Fay.
This year, more than 10 village cooks are preparing hundreds of pounds of Gilfeathers for the event's signature Gilfeather turnip soup, which is served at the popular Turnip Cafe in town hall. Another 200 pounds of turnips will be given out to various Wardsboro chefs to prepare different recipes that will be featured as "turnip tastings." The Turnip Café is located in the Wardsboro Town Hall and serves ala carte servings of the creamy, flavorful turnip soup plus other turnip dishes which festival goers may sample. A "soup kiosk" outside the big tent is for those who want to buy soup only.
Contestants of the annual Turnip Contest may register Gilfeather turnips at Town Hall from 10 a.m. to noon. Vermont's expert gardener and TV star Charlie Nardozzi has signed on to be this year's celebrity judge. He will be on hand for the ribbon-awards ceremony at 1 p.m. Anyone may enter the Turnip Contest, and it's free. There are six categories in which to win a ribbon this year: Grand Champion, largest grown in Wardsboro, largest grown out of town, largest grown from seed, largest grown from started seedlings and a new category this year, best name for your turnip.
The festival celebrates the Gilfeather turnip, first propagated in Wardsboro in the early 1900s by farmer, John Gilfeather. Gilfeather Farm still exists, right in the heart of Wardsboro, and the current owners carry on the tradition of Farmer John by planting a large crop of the heirloom turnip that originated on their farm at the turn of the century. The turnip has been lauded in feature articles in the local press, including Stratton Magazine, Local Banquet magazine, and Edible Green Mountains magazine, as well as a mention or two in food articles in New York magazine. It is a Vermont heirloom vegetable is listed in the Slow Food Ark of Taste. It's remarkable that a humble root vegetable - which some say is actually more of a rutabaga - has attracted much attention to the small town even after leaf-season has peaked, and all for a good cause as well. All the proceeds of the event are earmarked to pay for the costs of the property which houses the Wardsboro Public Library.
Visitors will be treated to the guitar and vocals of Jimmy Knapp, Wardsboro's strolling musician who annually serenades visitors with his original Gilfeather turnip ballad. Also performing throughout the day will be the "Tuesday Night Town Hall Boys" comprised of musicians from Wardsboro and Stratton. The "Turnip Tappers," an ensemble of young, costumed tap dancers directed by Kathleen Meeks of Wardsboro, will entertain visitors after the contest awards ceremony.
Festival admission and parking are free. This event is made possible by the enthusiasm and dedication of dozens of volunteers from Wardsboro and neighboring towns. The festival is a fundraiser for the Friends of the Wardsboro Library for the support of the Gloria Danforth Memorial Building, the home of the Wardsboro Public Library. For more information call 896-3416 or see www.friendsofwardsborolibrary.org.