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Harvest Festival celebrates community, food and fall harvest

Oyster shucking class participants line up to watch an instructor, right, show the proper technique for shucking an oyster at last year’s Harvest Festival at The Evergreen State College in Olympia.
Oyster shucking class participants line up to watch an instructor, right, show the proper technique for shucking an oyster at last year’s Harvest Festival at The Evergreen State College in Olympia. Courtesy

At The Evergreen State College’s 35th annual Harvest Festival, you can do such classic fall activities as pumpkin carving and drinking fresh-pressed cider.

But — this being the Northwest — you can also shuck oysters. An amateur shucking competition was added to the festival a few years ago.

“We teach everyone how to shuck oysters, and we have a very short, very easy contest,” said Emily Dunn-Wilder, a senior at the college and the organizer of the college’s Shellfish Club, which offers the contest with help from Taylor Shellfish. “Everyone who takes part not only gets to eat the oysters that they shuck, but also gets to take home a shucking knife.”

In fact, just about everything is free at the festival, including workshops, live music and tours of the farm and adjacent Community Gardens, with its individual garden plots.

Money is needed only if you plan to shop from the many local vendors, including Tamale Fusion, The Flaming Eggplant Café, The Greenery and The Organic Farm.

Between 600-700 people attended last year, said fest organizer Katherine Kirchoff, a senior who runs the gardens.

“It’s one of Evergreen’s long-standing traditions,” Dunn-Wilder said. “People have been going forever. There are a lot of little kids, a lot of families.”

“It’s a celebration of our community here in Olympia and the fall bounty,” Kirchoff said. “It is showcasing everyone’s abilities and talents. There are local vendors and food trucks and bands and workshops.”

The festival began as a way to show off the university’s farm, Kirchoff said. “It was a way to let people know that we do have this little farm at Evergreen, and it’s open to anyone,” she said.

That’s still a part of the purpose. For those who’d like to grow their own harvest, the Community Gardens has 12- by 12-foot plots available to students, faculty and community members.

“We provide the seeds, tools and compost,” Kirchoff said. “You can pretty much grow whatever you want and use whatever practices you want, as long as it’s organic.”

The fest also will offer a blacksmithing demonstration and a garlic tasting.

Attendees also can try to guess the weight of a giant pumpkin. Among the prizes for accurate guesses is a share from Sundog community supported agriculture.

The fest’s workshops are in the same do-it-yourself spirit.

“The workshops are a big part of what Harvest Festival is all about,” Dunn-Wilder said.

You can learn to make sauerkraut or soap, smoke salmon, brew beer, make mead, bake bread, build with earthen plaster and keep bees.

The workshops also offer taste experiences, too — a popular one is on making the perfect pie crust.

“Our pie-maker makes four or five pies, and we hand out forks and say, ‘Go for it,’ ” Kirchoff said.

HARVEST FESTIVAL

What: The Evergreen State College’s 35th annual Harvest Fest, held at the college’s Organic Farm, celebrates abundance, community and food.

When: Noon-5 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Evergreen Organic Farm, 2712 Lewis Road NW, Olympia.

Admission: Free.

Information: facebook.com/events/901261833281169 or tesccommunitygardens@gmail.com.

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