Mushroom merriment: Fungus Festival kicks off Labor Day weekend

Speakers, walks and feasts set for Labor Day weekend

King bolete. Yellow-footed chantrelle. Orange-gilled dermocybe.

You can celebrate and explore these and other mushrooms at the upcoming Cordova Fungus Festival from Sept. 2 through 4 at the Cordova Center. With educational presentations, guided forest walks and a mushroom recipe swap, the festival has a little something for everyone.

“My personal favorite part is the art workshops,” said organizer Kristin Carpenter, executive director of the Copper River Watershed Project. “It’s so great to have a chance to open up some creativity.”

And good thing for Carpenter – there are more art workshops being offered this year as well as a Mushroom Mixer, where people can mingle and try some wild food.

The festival begins Friday with talks by USFS Prince William Sound zone ecologist Kate Mohatt and author Noah Siegel. Siegel wrote “Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast: A Comprehensive Guide to the Fungi of Coastal Northern California.”

The festival continues throughout the weekend with indoor and outdoor activities. Tables will be set up with displays showcasing local mushrooms; there will be identification walks, mushroom dying workshops and even film showings.

In its 10th year, mushroom enthusiasts created the event to highlight that mushrooms are another thing to enjoy in the area – something it still does to this day, Carpenter said.

“The festival offers free guided forays (forest walks) so people can learn about where to look for mushrooms and which ones are safe to eat,” she said. “Mushroom picking here is mostly recreational, but picking wild mushrooms for retail and restaurant use is a big commercial business in the lower 48.”

The “Wild Harvest Feast” will be a highlight on Sept. 3, with Chef Derek Baril, who leads the restaurant Wild Standard in Boulder, Colo. His restaurant supports sustainable fishing practices and local farmers. At the dinner, there will be a silent auction complete with pottery, jams, textiles and specialty truffle butter. Tickets cost $65 and are available from the Copper River Watershed Project.

All other festival activities are free of charge. Registration is open at the Cordova Chamber of Commerce.

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Brielle Schaeffer is a freelance writer for the Cordova Times. A native of Eagle River, Brielle got her start reporting in and on Prince William Sound at the Valdez Star. She has also worked for Kenai's Peninsula Clarion, the Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News&Guide, the Center for Public Integrity and KCAW in Sitka. Brielle, a graduate of Washington State University's Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, currently lives and writes in Sitka. She can be reached at brielle.schaeffer@gmail.com.