This is a photo of the annual pawpaw eating contest at the Ohio Pawpaw Festival. Bridal-gown-wearing Anya Gonzalez (who got married at the festival) competes in the annual pawpaw-eating contest at the 2018 Ohio Pawpaw Festival. She won the contest in both 2017 and 2018, Photo by Conor Morris.

The Ohio Pawpaw Festival, a celebration of North America’s largest native tree fruit, is holding its 21st edition at Lake Snowden park near Albany this Friday through Sunday.  

What started as a small community event to honor a native tree has become a much-bigger affair, though it has managed to retain its small-festival feel. 

As always, according to a news release issued Sunday, festival highlights include the Best Pawpaw Competition, Pawpaw Cook-off and Pawpaw Eating Contest. Vendors will be selling fresh pawpaws, pawpaw trees and other pawpaw products. The food court will feature a variety of dishes showcasing the pawpaw fruit, and the beer garden will host 10 Ohio microbreweries, all with a different style of pawpaw beer. 

The Pawpaw Tent will feature educational presentations all weekend, including on topics such as cooking with pawpaws, fruit cultivation, nutrition, research and trivia.  

Highlights at the Pawpaw Tent include:

• The Pawpaw Food Vendor Cook-off at 4:45 p.m. on Friday. Watch as judges sample dishes on sale by professionals at their trucks and carts all weekend (while supplies last). Prizes will be awarded at 6:45 p.m.

• The second annual Devil’s Kettle Home Brew Contest at 6:15 p.m. on Friday. Pawpaw beers will be judged in a public exhibition, with the winner announced immediately after. The winning beer will be brewed by Devil’s Kettle Brewing in Athens, exclusively for the 2020 Ohio Pawpaw Festival. The top choice of judges at the 2018 Devil’s Kettle Home Brew Contest (a collaboration that includes the Ohio Pawpaw Festival and Ohio Brew Week) was a pawpaw gose made by Kurt Hoellrich of the Athens Home Brew Club. His winning recipe has been made on a commercial scale by Devil’s Kettle brew master Cameron Fuller, and will be served during this year’s Ohio Pawpaw Festival.

• The Brewers’ Roundtable takes place Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Now in its fourth year, this lively discussion features various brewers chatting about beer and the process of creating it. There also will be an optional tasting opportunity for an additional cost, for those over 21.

Live entertainment on the main stage will feature many local musicians as well as regional and national acts such as the Supersuckers (Friday), Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers (Saturday) and Hey Mavis (Sunday).

The Ohio Country Fair tent returns with presentations on brain tanning, flint knapping, square dancing and various other sustainable living topics. Friday features Sasquatch stories from the Southeastern Ohio Society for Bigfoot Investigation.

Another returning festival standby includes the Pollinator/Butterfly Tent, which features speakers, presentations, exhibits and activities all weekend. The Monarch Tent will release butterflies on Saturday and Sunday, at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. both days.

Rural Action’s Energy Village will showcase a cutaway Toyota Prius from West Virginia University’s National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC) to show how hybrid electric technology works on the inside. Green Energy Ohio’s Solar House demo will be on display all weekend, and kids activities take place Saturday from 12-5 p.m.

The Kids Area will have several large inflatable structures, art projects, athletic events, music, nature studies and the return of the Jelly Dome, a giant geodesic dome with swings, lights and climbing fun.

The fourth annual Pawpaw 4-Miler, a cross-country style race through the woods around Lake Snowden, will begin at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 15.

Rounding out the festival are the community marketplace of artists, craftspeople & non-profits; atlatl throwing; horse-drawn wagon rides; the Pawpaw Double Nickel Bicycle Ride; and much more.

  The event runs from 4 p.m. to midnight on Friday, 10 a.m. to midnight on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $15 per day or $30 for the entire weekend; children 12 and under are free, and a senior/military discount is offered. Dogs/pets are not permitted on the festival grounds.

Free shuttles from Athens will be available. The shuttle schedule, as well as a complete festival schedule, can be found at Email or call 740-698-6060 for more information.

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