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VPR Cafe: Summer Food Festivals In Vermont

Catherine Hays
The Vermont Cheesemaker's Festival, taking place July 19 at Shelburne Farms, is rated one of the 10 best summer food festivals in the U.S. by Fodor's Travel.

Who doesn’t love the beloved food festival, where it’s OK to eat tomato candy, zucchini ice cream and mounds of cheese?

Sally Pollak, food writer for the Savorvore section of the Burlington Free Press, joined the VPR Café to talk about the range of food festivals in Vermont.

“You could really eat your way through summer in Vermont,” says Pollak. She says there are a wide variety of festivals in the state, from farm and strawberry festivals to barbecue competitions and beer and wine festivals.

Kingdom Farm and Food Days – Northeast Kingdom, Aug. 14-16

Pollak says this festival, in the Northeast Kingdom, kicks off the harvest festival season. “[There are] free farm tours, free food and it ends with a free dinner prepared by NECI at High Mowing Seeds in Wolcott,” says Pollak. “It’s supposed to be great food, I haven’t been – I’m sure it is great because it’s using the harvest food of farms produced up there and prepared by NECI.”

Eat By Northeast – Burlington, Sept. 19-20

Pollak says Eat By Northeast, which takes place at Oakledge Park in Burlington, has a variety of food pairings, demonstrations, workshops, music and barbecue.

Mazza Farm’s Strawberry Festival – Colchester, June 20

In late June, Sam Mazza’s farm had their 20th anniversary strawberry festival at their farm in Colchester. “First of all, I thought I was arriving at a strawberry festival and when I got there, I felt like I was at the Champlain Valley Fair,” says Pollak. “It was ripe with strawberries in one field and junk food across the road. And it was really neat. There were 2,000 people there, maybe more. [It was] a beautiful, beautiful day, and I learned from Laurie Mazza, the oldest of their six children, that the festival started 20 years ago to honor their mother who had recently died, and she said they did it to lift their spirits,” says Pollak. 

"Kids were having a great time. There were strawberry shortcake eating contests where you couldn't use your hands or your utensils - people just bowed their head into strawberries and whipped cream. It got pretty messy." - Sally Pollak, food writer

“I would say 20 years later, spirits were still lifted," Pollak reports. "Kids were having a great time. There were strawberry shortcake eating contests where you couldn’t use your hands or your utensils – people just bowed their head into strawberries and whipped cream. It got pretty messy. Messy and delicious, the winner said to me.”

Vermont Cheesemaker’s Festival – Shelburne, July 19

Fodor’s Travel rates the Vermont Cheesemaker’s Festival one of the 10 best summer food festivals in the U.S. Pollak says she tried to count the number of vendors that will be in attendance this year, but gave up at 100. “I talked to one farmer who has a little dairy farm up in the Northeast Kingdom, called Sweet Rowen Farmstead. His name is Paul Lisai, and he said it’s a great time for them to come and sort of rub shoulders with foodies,” says Pollak. “He’s up there milking cows and focused on making a variety of cheeses, and they come down and make a little money, meet foodies and hang out at the Coach Barn.”

Credit Janet Boyd
The annual Blueberry Festival in Wilmington kicks off with a blueberry Jell-O event. Kids play in pools full of blueberry Jell-O and there is a Jell-O slip-and-slide.

Vermont Blueberry Festival – Wilmington, July 31 - Aug. 9

“[It’s] a whole 10-day blueberry festival down in Southern Vermont, in Wilmington, and it begins with playing in blueberry Jell-O,” says Pollak. “I think playing in Jell-O might be [more fun] than eating it. I never like to eat it.” The 2015 Vermont Blueberry Festival is taking place July 31 through August 9 in Wilmington, Dover and Whitingham.

Bennington Brewer’s Week – Bennington

This includes a tour of a hops farm in Pownell.

Vermont Brewer’s Festival - Burlington, July 18-19

This popular event takes place at Waterfront Park in Burlington. “If it’s nice weather, that’s a great, great, beautiful place for a beer festival. Brewers [come from] Vermont, New England and lots of food and a lot of fun,” describes Pollak.

The VPR Cafe is produced in collaboration with The Burlington Free Press and is made possible on VPR by Otter Creek Kitchenware in Middlebury's Marbleworks District, offering over 70 lines of kitchenware with personalized customer service.

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