The unique festival celebrates the Gilfeather turnip, first propagated in Wardsboro in the early 1900s by farmer John Gilfeather. Gilfeather’s farm still exists, right in the heart of Wardsboro, and the current owners carry on the tradition of Farmer Gilfeather by planting a large crop of the heirloom turnip that originated on their farm at the turn of the century. The festival has grown in popularity through the years as people discover the uniqueness of the now-famous tuber that the event celebrates. This year 100 pounds of Gilfeathers will be cooked and pureed to make the lunch special, Gilfeather turnip soup. Two hundred pounds will be given out to chefs to prepare over 30 different recipes that will be featured as turnip tastings at the Turnip Café. Casseroles, slaws, soufflés, breads, cakes, and pies are only a few of the many offerings that will appear on the tasting table. The turnip cart outside of town hall will be loaded with more Gilfeathers, many grown on neighboring farms such as Duttons in Newfane or in local gardens. They are sold by the pound and they go fast according to the Friends’ top turnip sales person, Cris Tarnay. Tarnay says, “They are hardy and easy to cultivate from seed (packets for sale), but shouldn’t be harvested before a bite of frost. It acquires a notable sweetness after a frost and that sweetness is what makes the Gilfeather so special.”
The Turnip Café will be located at the Wardsboro Town Hall this year and will serve homemade cider doughnuts and coffee beginning at 10 am and lunch from 11:30 until the soup runs out. Soup and tastings will be available for take-out or to enjoy at a sit-down lunch. Look for the turnip contest under a tent beside the town hall steps. Register your Gilfeathers from 10 am to 12 pm and return to town hall for the announcement of the winners by Vermont Director of Agriculture Roger Allbee at 2 pm Look for craft and farmers’ market vendors indoors and outdoors under tents this year, all in the vicinity of the Wardsboro Town Hall. As the event grows each year, the Friends of the Library, founders and sponsors of the festival, try to accommodate the increased interest of vendors who want to participate. It’s exciting that a humble turnip has attracted so much attention to the small town even after leaf season has peaked.
Live music in town hall, in the tents, and along Main Street will once again be a big attraction throughout the festivities. Visitors will be treated to the guitar and vocals of Jimmy Knapp, Wardsboro’s strolling musician, who will serenade visitors with his original Gilfeather turnip ballad. Alan Bills and his gang of talented guys are also on the venue along with several other talented musicians from nearby towns.
Look for Gilfeather turnip souvenirs at the Turnip Shoppe in town hall. On sale at the shop…Gilfeather turnip seeds, turnip DVDs and videos, post cards, festival t-shirts, caps, market bags, aprons, mugs – all with the Gilfeather turnip logo – and the event’s official recipe collection, “The Gilfeather Turnip Cookbook, Vol. 2.” Other merchandise for sale will be Wardsboro’s pictorial history, “Exposing the Past,” historical photo note cards, and turnip-themed children’s books. Proceeds from the sale of embroidered, canvas tote bags and prints of a watercolor of theWardsboro Library Red Barn by the late Betsey Fellows will benefit the barn renovation fund.
Festival admission and parking are free. All proceeds benefit the Friends of the Wardsboro Library for the support of the Gloria Danforth Memorial Building. For more information call(802) 896-4316 or see www.friendsofwardsborolibrary.org.