EUGENE, Ore. -- Fungus lovers packed the Mount Pisgah Arboretum on Sunday for the 30th Annual Mushroom Festival.
The festival started when the Arboretum faced financial cutbacks in 1981, and a caretaker was going to lose his job.
That’s when former board member Freeman Rowe had a job-saving idea for his friend and co-worker.
“So I suggested maybe we can make some money by starting a mushroom show, which we did,” said Rowe, 81, sitting with fiends at the mushroom exhibit.
And the mushroom festival was born.
“And we were able to save the caretaker’s position," he added.
Rowe started the festival with only one table and a handful of mushrooms. Now, the event draws around 5,000 visitors a year and boasts the largest collection of wild mushrooms on the West Coast—around 350 species.
“I am very proud to see how my baby program has grown into this absolutely wonderful event,” he said.
The festival’s long history of raising fundraising to keep the arboretum operating has continued. This year, organizers said they hope to bring in between ten and twenty thousand dollars, which means two or three months of operation.
But arboretum vice president Ann Forrestel said fundraising and rare mushrooms are just part of the festival’s draw.
“It’s the greatest ever - not only because it’s the 30th anniversary but because it’s a bigger festival in terms of the number of events we have, the number of booths, the number of vendor and the number of people who are going to come,” she said.
Kian James doesn’t even like mushrooms but comes to the festival every year with family for the great food.
“I’d have to say, if you come to the mushroom festival you’d have to come and try the soup,” he said in the mushroom exhibit. “It’s one of the best things, and even though I don’t really like mushrooms, I love the soup!”
Organizers said because of the increased popularity of the festival in recent years, shuttle buses were added this year to bring people back and forth from Civic Stadium to the arboretum.