MUSCODA - April showers bring May morels. That’s the theory, anyway.
This spring’s unusually miserable weather means that nature is a little behind schedule. Still, the Muscoda Morel Festival is on track for another banner year—with a few changes for 2022.
The festival takes place on May 14 and features bounce houses and other kids’ activities, an art fair, chainsaw carving, food and drink vendors, a parade (at 3 p.m.), and fireworks at dusk.
And morel mushrooms. Lots of them.
New this year is a “Cruise to the Festival” event, which kicks off the weekend on Friday at 5 p.m. on the paved parking lot of the Riverdale Bus Garage in the 500 Block of North Wisconsin Avenue. The rules are loose. The only criterion for participation is if your mode of transport is “cool.” Jose’s Mexican Food Truck will be on site.
Saturday’s food options are legion. The American Legion, for starters, which will once again bring their legendary hamburgers to the festival.
“We bought over 350 pounds of beef,” said the Legion’s president, Tom Nondorf. “All ground fresh that Wednesday morning, all hand pattied.” Last year, the Legion sold 855 burgers, a record.
Other food and drink options include the Lions Club chili cook-off and the fire department steak dinner, as well as vendors sampling cheese, wine, shakes, teas, and ice cream. Mushroom brats, made from scratch at Richland Meat Locker, will also be available. Due to USDA rules, the brats cannot contain wild mushrooms. For that, you’ll have to turn again to the Legion, which will be serving fried morels, while supplies last.
Changing morel market
The biggest change for 2022 is the way that mushrooms will be bought and sold. For the first time, the festival committee is encouraging individual pickers to sell their morels on the street in a free market.
In past years, all sales were funneled through the American Legion, which bought the shrooms from pickers and sold them at a small markup to cover costs. That was before Facebook.
“Pickers can go online and say, ‘I’ve got mushrooms,’ and people will pay. There’s no middleman anymore,” Nondorf said.
Moreover, prices are rising. In 2008, according to Nondorf, a pound of morels cost $10; last year, he paid $28.50. With 2021’s high prices, online trading, and poor season, the festival suffered morel shortages.
“If you’ve got a cooler full, you can sell them out of your garage, or on the street. We’d like to encourage people to sell them,” said Cinda Johnson, Muscoda’s village administrator, who works closely with the festival committee. “It’s a mushroom festival. We need mushrooms,”For more information about the festival, visit www.muscoda.com