When I came across a blurb about Lanesboro’s Rhubarb Festival in the Pioneer Press travel section a few weeks ago, I knew immediately I had to go. The very same day, my mom asked if we wanted to go camping that same weekend and I said “Sure, if you want to camp in Lanesboro.” And that’s how the seven of us ended up spending all day at a town fair that can only be described as quaint — or perhaps, quirky. Mark said it reminded him of the town square events that happen on CW shows like “Hart of Dixie” or “Gilmore Girls” but you don’t think ever happen in real life.
I was a little concerned that the kids would be instantly bored and the day would turn from adventure to annoyance. But they all enjoyed it. When asked to name their favorite thing, they said the playground. But I saw them enjoying other things too like Jamison the Juggler, a petting zoo, taste-testing and rhubarb olympics, so I’m OK with that answer. Plus, it was nice that the festival was in the main city park so the playground was close enough for them to play on their own for a bit while we ate pie!
Grace beat Mark and me in the rhubarb olympics — which included tossing a full stalk/leaf as far as possible, tossing rhubarb chunks through a basketball hoop and a bean bag board, putting pingpong balls with a rhubarb stalk and balancing an egg on a stalk while walking around a tree.
We ended up talking for a while with one of the Rhubarb Sisters, the unofficial ambassadors of the festival. She told us to stop in at her husband’s wooden spoon shop in town. His work was very impressive (and if you like it, get down there soon because he’s calling it quits in December). It turns out her husband also grows 1,500 pounds of rhubarb a year for Featherstone Farms, a CSA that delivers to the Twin Cities.
Before the festival, Connor couldn’t stop talking about the taste test and how much he liked rhubarb, but he ended up not liking many of the entries. He settled on a crumb cake as his winner. My picky eater Grace not only tasted several of the two dozen foods vying for the People’s Choice award but she actually liked one enough to declare it her winner: rhubarb yogurt. The yogurt was my winner up until I tasted the Tropical Rhubarb jam from Rhubarb Jammers. And lucky for me, Rhubarb Jammers had a booth at the festival so I bought a jar of that and a jar of the Simply Rhubarb. We also bought a six-pack of Rhu-Berry soda from Spring Grove Soda Pop and a bottle of rhubarb wine from Scenic Valley Winery.
(Joining the rhubarb bounty above is another of my favorite things: lilacs. Too bad the nearest lilac festival I can find is in Michigan. Maybe we’ll get a chance this summer to check out some of these other Midwest festivals.)