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A lot of things change in 29 years but one thing that has not is the mania the Mushroom Festival generates.
A group that called themselves Mushroom Mania Inc organized the first Mushroom Festival in 1981. The group decided Richmond needed a festival to celebrate a proclamation in 1980 by the Richmond City Council that declared Richmond the Mushroom Capitol of the World.
Just ask Miss Missouri Lacey Fitzgerald. She told the world Richmond was the Mushroom Capitol of the world during the Miss America competition in January.
Richmond saw it fitting that Fitzgerald serve as the Festival’s Grand Marshal of the parade.
Fitzgerald stopped the procession at the grandstand to be surprised with a giant sign announcing Richmond as the home of Miss Missouri. The Richmond Chamber of Commerce is currently working on a sign for Highway 210 with the Missouri Department of Transportation.
The grandstands also saw packed crowds for musical performances, dunk tanks and talent competitions.
Threats of rain throughout the weekend never materialized, helping to bring in throngs of people to the festival.
The Richmond Chamber beer garden made its return after a decade-long hiatus and the response was beyond most expectations.
“I think it went great. We’re very pleased,” said Ellen Franklin, executive director of the
Richmond Chamber of Commerce.” “I do think a lot of people from Richmond came back to their hometown.”
The beer garden was an open-air event at the Richmond Hills Shopping Center parking lot. Richmond police officers manned the gate to check IDs and hand out bracelets. Kansas City area rock band Teacher’z Pet entertained the crowd, estimated around 600, with rock ballads from Led Zeppelin to Alice in Chains. Franklin said the crowd was well behaved.
The Mushroom Festival marks many of the signs of spring and summer, and festival-goers took advantage of the fair weather. Crowds packed the streets and carnival on
Saturday, giving vendors a boost in the sales.
“Busy, busy, busy. The Lord has blessed us with good weather today.” said Roger Elliott, who was grilling hamburgers and hot dogs for the Richmond All Sports Club booth.
Brenda Hussing, co-owner of R&B Snack Shack in Richmond, was also pleased with the turnout and took advantage of large, hungry crowds during Wristband Night at the carnival on Thursday.
“Thursday was awesome and Saturday’s been great,” she said. “We’ve also sold a lot of coffee, mainly Friday and today (Saturday). We’re the only one to have it.”
Early Saturday morning, 31 runners and walkers gathered near the square to participate in the 5K Fungus Run. Over in the City Hall gym, teams of all ages showed their skills in the 3-on 3-basketball tournament. This year the tournament moved back indoors after spending last year at Cevie Due Park. The park was still busy however, as about a dozen skateboarders gathered for the second annual Skateboard Competition.
The Mushroom Festival is also an opportunity for people outside of Ray County to familiarize themselves with the area. This year’s barbecue contest was sanctioned for the first time by the Kansas City Barbecue Society.
Eric and Robin Burkhart traveled to Richmond from the Jefferson City area to compete and said the stepped-up competition makes it even more fun.
“That makes a big difference,” Eric said. “There’s a lot to be said for a sanctioned contest.” Others like Karen Putman of Kansas City said she would be at the barbecue cookoff – sanctioned or not. “I would still come even if it wasn’t,” she said. “It’s a good contest.”
Bob Carlson of Excelsior Springs decided to give it a try for the first time at this year’s
Mushroom Festival. Carlson said he’s been smoking meats for five years. “You’ve got to start somewhere,” Carlson said. “It doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and the way I look at it – it’s a learning experience.”
Some local competitors like past contest winner Josh Wilson like it because it’s close to home. “It’s fun because it’s in my backyard,” he said.
The Mushroom Festival also serves as a chance for area Masons to get out and get children signed up into the Missouri Child Identification and Protection Program MoCHIP).
MoCHIP worker William Huff said the program creates a packet for parents to give to law enforcement in case a child is abducted. The packet contains a saliva sample, pictures and other identification. “It gives them the data they need to find a child,” Huff said. “Hopefully they take them home and never use them.” Huff said an Amber Alert could broadcast statewide in a minute and forty seconds and nationwide in four minutes.
Photo: Miss Missouri Lacey Fitzgerald is surprised when Scott Marshall unveils a special road sign that will welcome people to Richmond, “Hometown of Miss Missouri 2008 Lacey Fitzgerald.” Fitzgerald was this year’s Mushroom Festival Parade Grand Marshal. (Photo by Brenda Jensen/The Daily News)