ohio pawpaw festival albany athens

52.) Ohio Pawpaw Festival – Albany – September 17, 2011

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: I returned to the Ohio Pawpaw Festival in 2016.

You can read that experience at http://ohiofestivals.net/ohio-pawpaw-festival-albany

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With flavors compared to mangoes, bananas, avocados and pears, the pawpaw is a rather unique fruit.

Not only is it Ohio’s largest native tree fruit, it has been the official state fruit since 2009, thanks to a pawpaw-growing movement in Southeast Ohio and an ever-growing festival…

…called the Pawpaw Festival.

I wrote a blog post about the festival back in 2009 (you can read that blog post here) after coming to Lake Snowden for the first time and submerging myself in pawpaw culture.

I drank pawpaw beer, sampled various pawpaw types, treated myself to pawpaw t-shirts and considered it the best festival of the year!

It was due to this post that I was contacted by one of the festival organizers and asked to be a judge at this year’s Best Pawpaw Competition.

Originally, I hadn’t planned on coming to the Pawpaw Festival due to other festivals I needed to cover in the Columbus area. But, being that I really did love this festival and considered it a great honor, I worked my schedule around and headed back down to Albany to try and reclaim the festival happiness that I had experienced two years ago.

When I first arrived, I had seen some sites that I recognized from before…

…such as the totem pole…

…historical characters…

…the music stage…

…and the vendors…

…who sold everything from potted nature to hippie harmony.

But, upon a second glance, I realized that the festival had really grown.

There were more vendors than before with more merchandise…

…ranging from bears and tortoise handbags…

…to authentic henna applied by fairies.

There were more activities for kids…

…including more jump houses…

…an obstacle course…

…and musical entertainment.

And there were a lot more critters…

…that you could observe through glass…

…handle…

…pet…

…or draw.

But where the festival expansion was most obvious was in regard to the pawpaw itself.

Here, at the Pawpaw Festival…

…you could learn about pawpaws from One Green World

…sample and buy pawpaws from even more vendors…

…get pawpaw decorations…

…enjoy pawpaw art, such as this pawpaw mask (Rob Kola)…

…and sink your teeth into some pawpaw grub.

In fact…

…among the two sections of food vendors…

…there was a lot more pawpaw food than before…

…including pawpaw baked goods, like jammers and “puffins”…

…and even pawpaw funnel cakes.

Required to have some type of pawpaw element to their menu…

…vendors got creative, concocting frostings, salsas…

…and even pawpaw butter for burgers.

Ali Baba’s in particular…

…had more pawpaw products than I could count…

…but that could have been thanks to the many more varieties of pawpaw beer.

All jokes aside, I really didn’t feel I could drink with such a responsibility before me…

…remember that I was really here to judge some pawpaws and I didn’t take to that lightly!

When the moment arrived, I was seated at a table with the blogger of A Local Choice and a girl who came all the way from Philadephia to check out the festival.

And there…

…as the audience watched us…

…we carefully touched, analyzed, smelled, and tasted each of these pawpaws…

…as if our life depended on it (take note of our serious seriousness).

Eventually, after the judging was over and a winner was declared, we were thanked for our services…

…and placed before a giant walking/talking pawpaw for a photo.

With a belly full of pawpaw and general happy feelings in my heart and soul…

…I then searched for ways to remember this experience.

Here are two of them.

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