August Food Festivals

By: Jose Ralat Maldonado
blueberries in carton

Sweltering, smelting furnace-like temperatures won’t prevent Americans from celebrating the bounty of land and sea this month. August kicks off with coastal fun and winds through berry patches, cabbage heads and myriad sweet selections for those who want to heat things up or cool off.

Main Lobster Festival, Rockland, Maine, Aug. 3-7: From the crowning of the Sea Goddess on the first of the five-day fete to the touring of naval vessels, this 63rd annual event attracts more than 20,000 visitors respectful of the ocean and its gifts, gifts that involves 20,000 pounds of lobster, cooking competitions, a parade and a lobster-crate race. The contest is a run over a floating string of traps. Not falling into the frigid Atlantic is a win. Landlubbers need not apply. They can safely crack up with the crustacean fun on dry land and enjoy a lobster roll. Or five.

Mossyrock Blueberry Festival, Mossyrock, Wash., Aug. 6: The unassuming berry conquers all for one day. Only in its third year, this food fair involves all the usual festival diversions: a parade, a car show, a quilt show, blueberry beer, even a raucous pie-eating contest. However, the folks in Mossyrock know it takes more than that to attract thousands of visitors. This early August celebration also offers twin giant blueberry piñatas stuffed with sweet treats. The Friends of Cowlitz hosts a fish tank where children will learn about river and wetlands restoration and everyone can try their hand at the dunking booth.

Lisbon Sauerkraut Days, Lisbon, Ia., Aug. 10-13: Cabbage heads donning themed costumes elicit no strange looks or double takes here. No, in Lisbon, this is how fun has been had since 1909. Events skirt timeliness and timelessness, from an ice-cream social and fierce bingo games to an outdoor family-movie screening and the dulcet tones of karaoke. Of course, more than that packs the Sauerkraut Days. Residents and out-of-towners take in a cabbage weighing, a tractor pull, a parade, bathtub races and link after link of brats with sides of cooked cabbage. If concerned about the calories, get in a little exercise with the Kraut Route 5K and slow-pitch tourney.

Mendota Sweet Corn Festival, Mendota, Ill., Aug. 11-14: Nothing says summer like sweet yellow corn dripping with butter. This Midwestern fair and its corn-fed organizers are ahead of the game there. During Sunday’s “The Big Event,” the hot corn, cooked with the assistance of a vintage steam engine (you read correctly), is free for the more than 60,000 visitors expected. Musical entertainment, crafters and flea markets, carnival rides and games, a parade (naturally), a pageant and a cooking contest offer most of the entertainment. Those in need of a bit of a respite from this grand harvest festival can duck into the beer garden—where there will be even more live entertainment. Sporting events scheduled are a cycling race, a 5K and a tennis tournament.

Crab Cake Festival & Shore Chef Cook-Off, Oceanport, N.J., Aug. 20-21: The Jersey Shore offers more than rickety boardwalks and unfortunate television programming. Its waters bring forth inspiration that aspiring and professional chefs use to compete in the crab-cake cook-off. Held at the Monmouth Park Racetrack, this celebration and its food, including catfish and clam chowder, have attracted so many hungry guests that it had to be expanded to two days. Admission to the cooking contest (judges’ and peoples’ choices) is a scant $3, while the price of food from local restaurants will cost at least $5.

Plankinton Annual Pheasant Fest, Plankinton, S.D., Aug. 20: If your idea of good, clean fun involves greased pigs, a demolition derby and a cornucopia of pheasant, then this one-day shindig is for you. For the seventh year, residents will participate in a progressive dinner during which diners enjoy successive pheasant courses at different locations. There is also a demolition derby and kiddie parade as well as a farmers’ market and craft fair. Make no mistake, though: the main draw is the mobile meal of fowl.

Potato Days Festival, Barnesville, Minn., Aug. 26-27: Named one of the 10 wackiest summer events by Trip Advisor, Potato Days attracts more than 17,000 visitors to this small town of 2,200, where the tuber is king. The eccentric activities include mashed-potato wrestling, a mashed-potato sculpture competition and a potato sack fashion show. Paling by comparison are the eating and peeling bouts, the pageant and the meals, like the potato pancake and French fry “feeds.” If that isn’t enough starchy celebrating, attendees can go on the hunt for the hidden golden potato. All in all, this festival is sure to be, uh, spudifferic.

Bodega Bay Seafood Art & Wine Festival, Bodega, Calif., Aug. 27-28: A sophisticated fete in contrast to the unique offerings of this month, this one is for the foodies, wine connoisseurs and beer snobs. Art and music lovers will also find a welcoming environment at the Watts Ranch in late August. The culinary wealth scheduled includes barbecued oysters, crab cakes and Key lime calamari, with 25 wineries and 15 craft beers to be present. Artists will also be on hand for exhibits. But not all is hoity-toity. Family-friendly activities like an appearance by Captain Jack Spareribs and the ever-popular rubber duck races will add levity to the festival.