Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rutabaga Fest in Cumberland, Wisconsin

Haven't posted in a few days as we were at my mother-in-law's house and she has no use for computers or the Internet.  And we were too busy to be wasting time at a wi-fi hot spot in town.  After all it was the 81st Annual Rutabaga Fest and the Dosch family were all home for the weekend. Always the weekend before labor day, it's a family reunion time of year. It's also a time when many of the kids who've left town for other parts return to catch up with classmates and friends.

Cumberland calls itself the Rutabaga Capital of the World.  (Not sure that any other town would want to wrestle that title from Cumberland.)  Back in the day, there was a rutabaga waxing plant in town. Rutabagas were grown in the area, waxed at the plant and shipped all over by train.  Does anyone even eat rutabagas anymore?

In case you haven't ever tried this root vegetable, it can be eaten raw like carrot sticks but to me it tastes bitter.  My husband says it's an acquired taste.  It can be cooked and served like mashed potatoes.  At Rutabaga fest you'll find it deep fried like french fries.

Maybe not the most exciting food ever found,but the fest is something else. There's something for everyone - a 2 mile fun walk (where they hand out beer tickets on completion), 5 k and 10 k runs, a canoe regatta on the lake, craft fair, fair rides and games, food booths, tractor pull, car show, and more, as well as the crowning of the Rutabaga queen and her court, followed by a culminating parade on Sunday including floats from all the other small towns around northwest Wisconsin who also have their own festival to advertise.

From Thursday evening till Sunday evening there are bands on the beer garden stage set up along Library Lake behind the main street.  The last few years, the Dweebs have traditionally been the last band - a blowback to the 50's.

photo courtesy Dick Thorpe 2009

During the break when you can once again hear and talk to your friends, Dick Thorpe takes a whole group photograph from the roof of the beer stand.  We've been asking ourselves what makes this festival so large, popular enough to attract people from as far away as Minneapolis and St. Paul.  We think it's the bands. The music is good - loud, but very danceable - with a variety of styles to suit all tastes. And it's plentiful with 2 bands playing each night Thursday through Sunday.

Over the years, attending this fest has become a Dosch family tradition.  My children remember it fondly and make a point to get there if possible.  It's become a family reunion time. Grandma's house is 2 blocks from the festival stage and right on the parade route, making it the ideal staging area for the weekend.  There are often family friends who crash at grandma's too, requiring that we tow our camper and set it up in the backyard to provide sleeping accommodations for everyone.  This year we were 11, causing endless commotion handled with extraordinary aplomb by 89-year-old Grandma Lorna.

Family stories and laughter filled the house during meal times when we were all together.  It reminded me that I have to find a solution to record at least the voice of Lorna as she passes on the lore and experiences from her generation.  And I need to do it soon. I want something unobtrusive so that it doesn't feel like a recorded session.  I need to get that figured out before deer-hunting season when once more we will all be together to celebrate life as an extended family.

I briefly tried out the voice recorder on my Evernote phone app and that worked ok - not great, but not awful either.  I will play around with that option on my computer to see if I can get a better quality recording. But Grandma would say, "Who needs computers? Life is better talking face to face."

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