Seven of our favorite food-focused fests
Wild Rice Fest
Set in the center of an area known for its wild rice crop (near Grand Rapids), Deer River has celebrated this Minnesota staple since 1949. Tis year’s event features a Wild Rice Festival Parade with food (ranging from wild rice hotdish to turtle stew), the Wild Rice Variety Show, and the Wild Rice Parade. They claim this is the “World’s Largest Wild Rice Festival.” One tidbit (from their website): “1969, eighty pounds of snapping turtle meat were not enough to feed the crowd at the turtle feed.” This year’s turtle feed is on Friday from 5 p.m.-8 p.m., so get there early!
The Rhubarb Wine Frenzy
The 21st annual Rhubarb Wine Frenzy, held at WineHaven Winery and Vineyard, will give you a chance to “taste the winery’s new batch of rhubarb wine!” You can also get a behind-the-scenes look at the vineyard as you explore Winehaven’s 50-acre estate on an authentic, European-built horse-drawn carriage. Then choose “rhubarb-forward foods from a wonderful rhubarb-inspired menu.” They wrote that. We didn’t.
Since 1935 (with a brief patriotic pause during the World War II years), Pequot Lakes has celebrated the “day the pioneers buried the beans.” According to legend, Pequot Lakes pioneers were cooking a bean dinner when rumors of an Native American attack forced them to flee, but not before burying their bean pots. When the pioneers returned and unearthed the beans, they were “tastier than ever.” Today, 2,000-plus beanholers (their term, not ours) turn out for the annual Raising of the Pots (now done with backhoes) for the 150-gallon bean feed. So you get to eat beans that have been made tastier by being stored in the ground. Also—and this is right from their brochure: “People are lined up for blocks. There’s an aroma in the air. It’s Bean Hole Days!”
Braham Pie Day
After Gov. Rudy Perpich named Braham the “Homemade Pie Capital of Minnesota” in 1990, the people of Braham didn’t waste any time in publicizing their sweet success by launching an annual Pie Day. More than 500 pies and 5,000 visitors are expected at this year’s Pie Day, which features baking contests, pie-eating contests, a pie relay race, a recycled pie tin art contest, and the Pie-Alluia Chorus.
Minnesota Garlic Festival
Described as “the premiere event for lovers of garlic,” Minnesota Garlic Festival organizers also promise the festival will be a “friendly, fun-filled and fragrant” event celebrating the more than 100 varieties of garlic grown in Minnesota. Past festivals have featured local foods, chefs, artisans, games, and performances by Mariénne Kreitlow, composer of the garlic-themed songs “I Like Garlic,” “The Vampire Song (Put Down the Garlic),” and “The Stinking Rose.” Also—and this may be more warning than promotion—they will be serving garlic ice cream.
Corn on the Cob Days
Held in Plainview, the festival’s highlight is the 8 to 10 tons of sweet corn it serves—for free, in four hours—to the 10,000-plus attendees on Sunday (from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.). The annual event also includes The Miss Plainview Pageant, a parade, a kids’ movie night (and water fight), street dances … and did we mention the free sweet corn? Their motto? “It gets butter and butter every year.”
Potato Days Festival
The folks behind the Potato Days Festival say they “take issue with anyone who might think the lowly potato is brown and boring.” Potato Days is their half-baked attempt to improve the spud’s image. Each year, more than 14,000 tater lovers from across the country descend on this town of 2,200 for such attractions as a Miss Tator Tot Pageant, French Fry Feed, Potato Car Races, Potato Pancake Feed, Potato Peeling Contest, Mashed Potato Sculptures, Mashed Potato Wrestling, and a Mashed Potato Eating Contest (hopefully from different potatoes than the wrestling thing).