Every year, on a September weekend, the campgrounds adjoining Lake Snowden in Ohio become the favorite haunt of lovers of the pawpaw, the United States’ largest edible native fruit. The Ohio Pawpaw Festival, which completed its twentieth year of operation in 2018, is an annual celebration of the fruit that resembles a mango (the larger ones look like unripe papayas) and, some say, tastes like banana pudding.
Attended by thousands every year, the pawpaw festival is packed with activities. It isn’t uncommon to happen upon a group of ukulele players next to some hula-hooping children, or folks playing Jenga while others dance to a live band. There are competitions for the best pawpaw art, and several cook-offs for the best foods and beverages made with pawpaw. Vendors and pawpaw farmers hold presentations to educate visitors about this cherished fruit, including details on how best to grow it.
The athletically-inclined can engage in some competitive spear-throwing, while children enjoy a variety of rides and games. Many people come dressed in their finest pawpaw costumes.
Scores of tents sell various edibles. One can make a several-course meal of pawpaws while enjoying the festive surroundings. There’s pawpaw salsa, pawpaw chicken mole, and a variety of main dishes, to be washed down with a chilled glass of pawpaw beer, of which there are many kinds on tap. And save room for dessert, where you can take your pick of festival favorites, including pawpaw ice cream and pawpaw cheesecake. This weekend-long tribute to one of America’s original fruits is a fun time for the whole family.