There will be asparagus in the beer and the bratwursts and the soups and the sandwiches at the 10th annual Empire Asparagus Festival Friday and Saturday, May 17 and 18.
“We keep everything food- and asparagus-oriented,” said festival coordinator Paul Skinner. “The dish must have asparagus and they should use Norconk’s (asparagus farm).”
In fact, unless there’s asparagus in the recipe, it’s not allowed under the food tent at the quirky event that drew nearly 3,000 people last year to this tiny berg on the shores of Lake Michigan in Leelanau County.
The festival is designed to promote locally grown food and food vendors.
“We want to give locals a festival to come out and enjoy on their own doorstep,” said Skinner.
It’s come a long way since the first one in 2003, when volunteers ladled out just five gallons of asparagus soup under a 20-by-20-foot tent.
This year, the festival weekend kicks off with a dance and pig roast from 7-10 p.m. Friday. The pig roast is provided by Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor, with beer from Right Brain Brewery of Traverse City. The Benzie Playboys will provide music.
Saturday morning festivities get underway with a 5K fun run/walk. Registration is $10 and the walk begins at 10 a.m. The Asparagus Recipe Contest cook-off follows at 11 a.m. At 2 p.m., local bards will be strutting their stuff at “The Ode to Asparagus” asparagus poetry competition at the Empire Township Hall.
The annual parade heads down Empire’s main street at 4 p.m. There’s no entry fee, but you need to be giving a nod to asparagus in some way.
From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. ,you can belly up to the food, beer and wine tables to sample all things asparagus. More than a dozen food vendors will be there and a $2 entry fee will get you in on the goodies.