It all started in the church parking lot.
Thatâ€™s where Keith Schloneger (who you may know as the guy with the fabulous old-fashioned ice cream across the street from Lehmanâ€™s) and several gardening buddies started a contest to see who could grow the biggest German Lutz red beet. This particular variety of beet is known for its enormous size and excellent flavor and storage ability. Dave Risser grew a 12-pound beet the size of a manâ€™s head, taking the competition to a new level. Schloneger began handing out seed packets left and right.
One of those seed packets went to Karen Geiser (who you may also recognize as a frequent Lehmanâ€™s demonstrator and blogger). Geiserâ€™s children thought there ought to be a beet festival to showcase the giant beets, complete with ice cream.
And so the Red Beet Fest was born.
In typical, energetic Kidron fashion, Schloneger and Geiser set about organizing what may well be the only red beet festival in the country. This yearâ€™s Second Annual Red Beet Fest will take place from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on October 16. The Beet Fest will be held in front of the Kidron Community Heritage Center, just across the street from Lehmanâ€™s.
All are welcome to stop by and sample such delicacies as beet cake, beet juice, and shoestring beets. Schlonegerâ€™s will be serving up their â€œUnbeetableâ€ red beet ice cream that day as well. Schlonegerâ€™s is known for their unique seasonal flavors such as dandelion, nasturtium-pistachio and pumpkin-pecan. The beet ice cream is a beautiful rose color with a mild beet flavor that most peopleâ€”even beet haters–are surprised to find they enjoy.
Local chiropractor Allen Hoaglund, who is particularly fond of beet greens, will judge the beet contest entries again this year. Prizes will be awarded at noon for the largest beet and loveliest leaves in the German Lutz contest, and for the tastiest appearance in the open beet contest. Anyone can enterâ€”simply bring one German Lutz or three of any other beet variety to the stand between 10 and 11 am on Saturday.
The Red Beet Fest even has an official song, written and recorded by Bruce Hershberger in honor of the event. â€œWeâ€™re talkinâ€™ about red beets, theyâ€™re better than red meat; the King of the garden, in the fall,â€ the chorus begins. Hershberger plans to add a new verse to the song each year. Several local accordion players will provide additional musical entertainment from the balcony of the Heritage Center.
If youâ€™re in town October 16, take a few minutes to stop by for some down-home Kidron fun and Unbeetable ice cream, and to pick up some Lutz seeds for next yearâ€™s competition. I guarantee youâ€™ll learn more than you ever wanted to know about the humble red beet!
Read more about last year’s 1st Annual Red Beet Festival here.
Lisa Amstutz is a freelance writer and co-author of Local Choices, a guide for the aspiring locavore. She lives on 6 acres in rural Ohio with her family and an assortment of chickens, goats, rabbits, and cats.