Mushroom festival welcomes visitors with sunny skies, good eats on final day

The final day of the Pacific Northwest Mushroom Festival, now in its seventh year, welcomed visitors with sunny skies and the irresistible aroma of mushrooms being cooked up in delicious ways.

The three-day event raises funds for Hawks Prairie Rotary’s charitable giving, said Corey Lopardi, co-chair and immediate past president of Hawks Prairie Rotary.

Some recipients include Boys and Girls Club, Homeless Backpacks and the North Thurston Education Fund, according to a festival program.

The festival typically attracts 6,000 to 8,000 people to the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey and raises about $20,000, he said. It began Friday night with a 5K run called “Grow in the Dark,” then continued Saturday and Sunday. Key events on Saturday included the evening Mushroom and Wine Event. On Sunday, there was an appearance by Radio Disney, Lopardi said.

And for the first time the Mushroom and Wine Event was held on site. Previously it was held about a mile from the RAC because alcohol was not allowed in the park. But the Lacey City Council voted to approve alcohol sales at two events — the Mushroom Festival and Lacey Chamber of Commerce’s South Sound BBQ Festival — on a trial basis through the end of 2015.

“It helped the event,” said Lopardi about the new location for Mushroom and Wine.

Donna Mullis and her mother, Esther, of Lacey, who moved to the area from Vancouver, Washington, about 45 days ago, attended the festival for the first time. They lined up for Shroom Feast, in which visitors paid to try seven mushroom dishes.

“Every one of them was delicious,” Donna Mullis said, although she did have a favorite: bacon-wrapped mushrooms. Those who tasted the food got to vote on their favorites.

Mullis also praised the festival for being near a playground, giving children something to do.

The RAC just happens to be across the street from Ostrom’s Mushrooms, a mushroom farm that is sometimes criticized for the odor it produces.

But Mullis, a true mushroom fan, said she drives by Ostrom’s every day and that the smell doesn’t bother her at all.