Asparagus Festival preps for 10th edition in Hadley on Saturday

New England Public Media’€™s Asparagus Festival returns to the Town Common in Hadley on Saturday. The festival, which will mark its 10th year, is expected to draw some 7,500 people for the daylong event.

New England Public Media’€™s Asparagus Festival returns to the Town Common in Hadley on Saturday. The festival, which will mark its 10th year, is expected to draw some 7,500 people for the daylong event. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 05-29-2024 11:06 AM

Modified: 05-29-2024 3:29 PM


HADLEY — Beginning in 2013 on the grounds of a Route 9 restaurant, where people could enjoy food, music and beer tastings, New England Public Media’s Asparagus Festival has grown into a daylong event on the historic Town Common on West Street.

On Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., the Asparagus Festival takes place for the 10th time, with family-friendly activities, food trucks and vendors coming to the community that some know as the Asparagus Capital of the World.

“The festival is focused on celebrating local agriculture and community in western Massachusetts, and we are really proud of the partnership we have with the town of Hadley that makes this possible,” says Vanessa Cerillo, senior director of marketing, communications and events for NEPM.

Like previous festivals, the Fabulous 413 Main Stage, with hosts Monte Belmonte and Kaliis Smith, is a prominent feature. There, musicians will perform, including singer-songwriter duo Lexi Weege & JJ Slater, world music ensemble TapRoots, New Orleans native Glen David Andrews, and The Diego Mongue Band, a young Berkshire-based blues band.

Interspersed with the music will be guests who will speak about farming in the Pioneer Valley, including Massachusetts Agriculture Commissioner Ashley Randle, state Sen. Jo Comerford and U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern.

Cerillo said while the Asparagus Festival is a fundraiser and celebration, there is lots of interest from those who come to learn more directly from the farmers who work the land and those who advocate for their livelihood through public policy.

Near the stage is also where, at 12:30 p.m., people can compete in the Wally Hibbard Memorial Asparagus Bunching Contest, a contest named after the late Hadley farmer who was known as the king of “Hadley Queen” asparagus. Those who try their hands at the contest will see how fast and accurately they can bunch asparagus into 1-pound bunches.

The contest is coordinated by Wally Czajkowski, who runs Plainville Farm in town, with prizes to be awarded included hats and pickled asparagus. Czajkowski said more people seem to be trying their hands at the bunching contest each year.

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As for the festival, Czajkowski said he appreciates so many come to town to enjoy the day. “It’s very good for farmers because it brings attention to asparagus in Hadley, and the Valley,” Czajkowski said.

The Farmers & Makers Market will be open all day long on the common, with 100 local vendors and artisans featuring crafts, cultural items, nonprofit initiatives and agricultural products. In addition, the festival will have a number of food trucks, with those setting up encouraged to offer at least one asparagus-themed item, such as asparagus fries or asparagus flavored ice cream.

PBS Kids characters Curious George and Malik from “Work It Out Wombats” will be meeting and greeting families from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will also be a live science quiz from the Tumble Podcast, and families can find out how fast they can pick asparagus with the Asparagus Valley Pick game, or join Wild Garden of Childhood Nursery for arts and crafts.

For adults, the Provisions Beers & Spears tent will feature local craft breweries, such as Building 8 Brewery and Abandoned Building Brewery.

The will be plenty of parking on one section of the Town Common, but people can also easily arrive via the Norwottuck Rail Trail, which crosses the common, or via PVTA buses, which drop passengers off in town center.

With forecast for sunny, mild weather, Cerillo said the hope is to bring in a similar crowd to the 7,500 people who attended a year ago.

The festival is free and open to all, though there is a suggested donation of $5 per person or $20 per family at the gates. Proceeds from the NEPM Asparagus Festival support public media in the region.

For complete details of activities, and to register in advance for tickets, go to nepm.org/asparagus

More information is also available on NEPM’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.