One of the best reasons to live in (or visit) a state that’s as rich in agriculture as Ohio is the food festivals you can find almost every weekend. There are so many, in fact, that the following list is only a selection. For more visit www.ohiofestivals.net.
Dandelion Festival. Held each year at Breitenbach Wine Cellars in Dover, this is where to sample dandelion wine, gravy, sausage, bread and ice cream. Saturday, cooks will compete for the most creative dandelion dish in the 19th annual Great Dandelion Cookoff.
Utica Old Fashioned Ice Cream Festival. Look for the grounds of the Velvet Ice Cream plant in Utica, then settle in for festival fun such as pony rides, a craft show, sheep herding demonstrations and a magic show. Participate in the ice-cream eating contest, or stop by the ice cream tent and indulge yourself in a cone or a dish.
Troy Strawberry Festival. Troy calls itself the center of Ohio’s strawberry production, so come to the levee along the Miami River to find strawberries in every form imaginable – from doughnuts to strawberry pie. And save room for strawberry shortcake. There’s a parade, crafts fair and entertainment as well.
Banana Split Festival. Come to where the banana split allegedly began – in Wilmington. Classic cars, games, rides, crafts and collectibles are only part of the fun. There is a banana-split eating contest, and a make-your-own-banana-split booth.
North Market Food & Wine Festival. Each year, at the North Market in Columbus, visitors can sample some of the best Ohio wines, then step inside a 1940s-era Quonset hut for fresh, local, even international fare.
Cheese Festival. Although no longer the “Cheese Empire” it once was, Wellington still celebrates its dairy heritage with an annual cheese festival. Wine tasting, cheesecake and mac ‘n’ cheese bakeoffs, and a cheese pizza eating contest are all part of the fun, along with booths of cheese to sample and buy.
Bratwurst Festival. Bucyrus is known as the “Bratwurst Capital of America,” but don’t think a bratwurst is a bratwurst. Each is made differently and each has its own unique blend of spices and meats so tasting is definitely in order here. Add entertainment, a beer garden, art and craft shows, and rides and you have all-day entertainment.
Tomato Festival. Tomatoes come in an astonishing array of sizes, shapes and colors, and they’re all on display in Reynoldsburg at this event. Clowns, a flea market and pizza taste-off add to the fun. So does the tomato toss. Splat!
Melon Festival. Dresden is home to Longaberger baskets and a melon festival that takes place here each year. There are melon-eating and seed-spitting contests for the kids and a beer garden for adults. Also boat rides, tractor pulls, a karaoke contest and a contest for the heaviest watermelon, largest cantaloupe and sweetest cantaloupe.
August 29-September 1
Millersport Sweet Corn Festival. A parade, pageant, country music shows, clog-dancing and corn-eating contests provide plenty of old-fashioned fun, along with plenty of sweet corn to eat. Check the schedule before you go. You wouldn’t want to miss the Outhouse races, would you?
Popcorn Festival. Why a popcorn festival in Marion? The city is home to the Wyandot Popcorn Museum, filled with the world’s largest collection of popcorn poppers and peanut roasters – a must-see while attending the festival. Or come for top-name entertainment, the beer garden or rides – or the popcorn, of course.
Garlic Festival. The unmistakable aroma of garlic wafts over Cleveland’s Shaker Square as this festival gets underway. There are grill-offs, bake-offs, and last year, a presentation on garlic-friendly wines, along with entertainment and lots of garlic.
Ohio Pawpaw Festival. If you don’t know what a pawpaw is, now’s your chance to find out. Come to Lake Snowden in Albany to taste pawpaws in all forms – raw, baked into goods or brewed into beer. There’s a pawpaw cook-off, biggest pawpaw contest, even notes on how to grow pawpaws.
Grape Jamboree. When grapes in Geneva are harvested, it’s time to celebrate, so come and sample fresh grape juice, wine and other grape products. There’s a pie-eating contest and corn hole tournament, but for real fun, make like Lucy Ricardo and stomp some grapes (stompers must register first).
Waynesville Sauerkraut Festival. You may think you don’t like sauerkraut – but reserve judgment until you’ve had a chance to sample sauerkraut pizza and sauerkraut fudge or ice cream. Of course you’ll find cabbage rolls here as well. Waynesville has offered its sauerkraut festival since 1970 and usually includes a juried art and craft show. Sorry, though, no beer (or other alcohol) to wash down your sauerkraut.
Circleville Pumpkin Show. The granddaddy of all food shows closes out the harvest season in style. Pick up your Halloween pumpkins here, or just indulge in an assortment of pumpkin-based food, including donuts, ice cream, breads, soups and pies (don’t miss the huge pumpkin pie made by Lindsey’s Bakery each year). Gourds and other seasonal fruits and vegetables are also available.