April 25-27, 2014
by Jeff Tryon
photo of Jeff Morgan at 2013 festival by Jules Dunlap
As winter dissolves into spring, a traditional passion begins to rise in Brown County, a mania that draws men, women and children into the woods, heads bowed, a stick in one hand and some sort of sack in the other.
It’s mushroom huntin’ time again!
This year’s season will be highlighted by the second annual Brown County Morel Festival, celebrating all things relating to the delicious, spongy fungi that pop up on the forest floor each spring as the ground thaws and warms.
The festival at the Bill Monroe Music Park in Bean Blossom will feature lots of live music, expert lectures on mycology, and guided hunts and “forays” to search for the delectable sponge mushrooms and their likely places.
The festival will feature over 15 bands performing all types of music.
“This is not just a bluegrass festival or a folk festival—it is a morel festival. The music performers will be as diverse as the crowd that is attending,” said Randy LaVere, one of the event’s organizers. “We’ve tried to include as many folks from the Brown County music scene as possible, to showcase the talent that lies in these hills.”
Performers will include southern rock/country from Brown County’s own The Cox Brothers, folk singer-songwriter Chicago Farmer, bluegrass from the Indianapolis-based Punkin Holler Boys, local favorites White Lightning Boys, Bloomington-based New Old Cavalry, and pop/acoustic tunes from Brown County’s Jeff Morgan.
LaVere said the event will not only showcase the many talented folks who live here, but on all the different aspects of Brown County as a whole.
“We’ve had a ton of support from local businesses and we will encourage people to come to Nashville to shop and to travel around and take in the beauty of our artist colony,” he said.
“We are leading six different guided hunts to six different locations in Brown County. We’ll be taking folks through the back roads, by the country stores, and showing them sites that most tourists never really get to see.”
This year’s Morel Festival will feature top-notch lecturers and teachers, including experts in mycology from across the country.
Many will not only be speaking, but will be leading “forays” or guided hunts as well.
Staff mycologist Stephen Russell is the author of Homegrown Mushrooms, founder of The Hoosier Mushroom Society, and a well-known speaker on mycology who has given presentations at every major mushroom festival in the country.
Joining Russell will be world-champion mushroom hunter Alex Babich, founder of Morel Mania; Tom Nauman, founder of the Mushroom Journal; Britt Bunyard, chef and professional mushroom hunter; and “the Mushroom King,” local morel legend Bird Snider, among others.
LaVere said a successful first year festival in 2013 means folks will be coming from as far away as Texas to enjoy this year’s festival.
He said the family-friendly aspect of the festival and the diversity of people that come together for the mushrooms make it special.
“One of the greatest highlights from last year’s festival was watching all of the children come back into the park with their little hands full of morels,” he said. “Local expert Bird Snider taught the children’s class and then led about 40 of them on a guided hunt and showed them the ropes.”
“It was a very special moment.”
He said, as the parent of young children, he knows the importance of keeping kids entertained. A lot of activities are planned so they can enjoy the weekend along with their parents. Children 12 and under are admitted free of charge.
For tickets or more information on the Brown County Morel Festival, visit <www.morelfestival.com>.