By ANDREW ROTH
Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan is home to well-known food festivals like the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City and Cheeseburger in Caseville, but if events attended by more than 500,000 people feel like biting off more than you can chew, one of a smorgasbord of lower-profile food celebrations throughout the state might be easier to swallow.
“It gives more of a hometown feel, like an old-fashioned festival,” said Quinn Passmore, an organizer of the Elsie Dairy Festival.
Being in a smaller town, Passmore said the festival takes on a more personable character.
“Everybody knows everybody, and even visitors who come to town feel almost like they know everybody by the time they leave. It’s not so crowded that you can’t see the personality of the town that’s hosting the festival,” Passmore said.
“With the big cities, it’s a money thing. It’s 100% money. It goes for a week, and it takes that personal aspect out of it,” she said.
Events like the National Asparagus Festival in Mears in Oceana County, the Posen Potato Festival in Presque Isle County and the Howell Melon Festival are opportunities to entice visitors to local businesses while paying homage to the community’s culinary and agricultural heritage, Passmore said.
So are the Romeo Peach Festival in Macomb County, the Humongous Fungus Festival in the Upper Peninsula and, for something crunchier than a ripe peach, Battle Creek’s Cereal Festival.
Passmore said of Elsie, a village in Clinton County near Lansing, “We’re the dairy capital of Michigan. I used to always tell people there’s about 20 cows to every one person.”
But food-based festivals also serve as a chance for local residents to share the community they love with others and pay homage to favorite fruits, fungi, vegetables and other foodstuffs while enjoying seasonal fun themselves.
The village of Elsie is usually made up of a small population. “We have a pizza place, a party store, all that stuff. But during the dairy festival, we pack our town for three solid days,” Passmore said.
“There’s just something really nice about seeing so many happy faces in the town that you love, and just sharing that experience with them.
“What you can’t move away from, you’re letting them have for a day or two and experience,” she said.