Rhubarb fans descend on Lanesboro
LANESBORO --- In just 10 years, the Lanesboro Rhubarb Festival has grown so much it has received the information-age's unofficial stamp of fame: When you Google rhubarb celebration, you get information on Lanesboro.
Hundreds of rhubarb fans made their way to the small town in Fillmore County to taste rhubarb ice cream, rhubarb cheesecake, gyros with rhubarb sauce and, of course, rhubarb pie.
"It's hard to believe that 10 years ago this all started with a thought and here we are," said Diane Haight, who helped come up with the festival and has attended all 10 years. "It has just gotten bigger and bigger. It's hard to imagine how it could get any bigger."
The highlight of the festival is the tasting contest. Rhubarb fans can taste pies, crisps, cakes, soups, chutneys, chili, jams, ketchup, leathers, drinks and more -- all with one thing in common — rhubarb.They then vote for their favorite.
Enid Dunn took first place with rhubarb pico de gallo. While winning makes the festival fun, she also said she loves the music. In front of the gazebo where the testing takes place is a tent for musical acts. Dunn said her favorites are The Rutabagas. The Rhubarb Sisters, Tom Schramm with Over the Waterfall and AccordioNation also performed Saturday afternoon.
Heidi Dybing helps conduct a rhubarb-pie making contest every year. Unlike the big tasting contest, there are no prizes. Well, except for the free pie.
"The kids enjoy the contest; the men are competitive, and the women know what they are doing," Dybing said. "It's just a really fun time for everyone."
Like Haight, Dybing has been to all 10 festivals, and she said the event's growth is amazing.
"Ten years ago, it was basically the tasting and the music," Dybing said.
Dybing said the festival started out as a small event located by the gazebo at Sylvan Park in Lanesboro. Now, the festival's events and vendors cover almost every inch of the park.
In recent years, the festivals has added a petting zoo, The Cock-A-Doodle Zoo. Dybing said only rescued exotic animals are in it. More and more food offerings have been added throughout the festival's history. The town's three churches sell food, as does the Lanesboro Library, the local chapter of the Sons of Norway and area youth groups. Dybing said the local vendors could not keep up with the crowds, so professional vendors were brought in, with one stipulation.
"At least one of the items on the menu has to include rhubarb," she said.
Haight finished third in this year's tasting contest, but she said she's already putting together the winning dish for the 2015 festival.
Dona Conway placed ahead of Haight with her dessert, rhubarb tort. Conway said outside of rare box cake, she never bakes. For while on Friday night, it looked as if baking was a bad idea.
"Last night, the first batch fell on the floor. Then I got up at 6 o'clock this morning and, grumbling, made another batch and thankfully that turned out."