Warmer Weather means Food Festivals
Summer is close at hand, and for many of us who enjoy food and the outdoors–and, even more so, a combination of the two–the impending warm weather can only mean one thing: food festivals! There are hundreds of food festivals held around the country between the months of April and August; the following is an offering of merely a few that are new, notable, or nationally recognized.
Taste of Chicago
No compilation of food festivals would be complete without mention of the largest one in the world. Started in 1980, the Taste is held every year in Grant Park. The event is ten days long, beginning the Friday before the Fourth of July and ending the following Sunday. Vendors, including some of Chicago’s finest restaurants, offer up cuisines from all over the world. Popular staples include Chicago-style deep dish pizza, Chicago hot dogs, and Eli’s cheesecake, but attendees can sample anything from sauteed goat with fried plantains to alligator sandwiches. Visitors are advised to arrive early, wear lightweight clothing, bring a small notepad to jot down any restaurants to be looked up in the future, and to take advantage of Chicago’s public transportation. Parking is expensive, streets are closed, and, hey, it’s a chance to gain some culture.
Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival
Breaux Bridge, Louisiana lays claim to the title of Crawfish Capital of the World and each year holds a festival at the beginning of May to celebrate this esteemed ranking. Visitors pay a flat admission rate each day (three-day passes are also available at a discounted rate) and events include crawfish races, cajun & zydeco dance contests, a parade featuring the Crawfish Queen, and a crawfish etouffee cook-off. In addition, crawfish are prepared in every way imaginable–think the famed Forrest Gump shrimp scene, just substitute “shrimp” with “crawfish.” Lodging is available, but tourists are encouraged to make reservations early or take advantage of the RV camping lots located across the street from the festival grounds.
L.A. Street Food Fest
Hipster foodies in the know are following street food vendors and food trucks, and the L.A. Street Food Fest is capitalizing on the trend. At a mere two years old, the fair has already attracted over sixty vendors ranging from gourmet food trucks and celeb chefs to old school carts and stands. This year the festival with take place on July 9 & 10 and will feature a cook-off among its participants. Last year’s winners included strawberry tamales and crispy tofu balls.
Yarmouth Clam Festival
Always the third Friday in July, the Yarmouth Clam Festival may not be one of the largest or most cutting-edge of the country’s food festivals, but it is indeed noteworthy in that this gathering that takes place every year in the charming town of Yarmouth, Maine, is held solely to benefit the various nonprofit groups, churches and schools that contribute to the community. Sponsors keep the fair going with volunteers and with monetary donations. Events include the Clam Festival Parade, a Canoe and Kayak Race, the Kids’ Fun Run, Pat’s Pizza five-mile road race, and (drumroll, please) the Maine State Clam Shucking Contest. Barrels of bivalves are lined up to see which local celebrity can shuck them the fastest. And don’t miss the “Clean Water for Clams” exhibit on the Library Lawn.
Of course during this festival one can sample to his heart’s content the myriad of clam dishes–fried whole clams, clam cakes, clam chowder and clam strips, but a drastic increase in daily caloric intake is not all that should be taken from this event; so, too, should the good feeling that comes from supporting the groups that support a community.