Lifestyle » Vol. 45

Asparagus and flowers in a rural gem make a great day trip

Asparagus Festival CREDIT MELINDA CZUBBy Richard Morchoe

If your town had arguably the loveliest common in Worcester County, you might want to show it off. West Brookfield does that every year in mid-May. With its strategic location on Route 9 and beautiful grounds flanked by stately homes, the common is a field that almost demands a festival be held. Post-winter, the grass is up and verdant, flowers are everywhere, and the town is ready to celebrate.

The West Brookfield Asparagus and Flower Heritage Festival has become an event enjoyed not just by townspeople but by visitors far and wide.

Of course, if you can’t stand asparagus or flowers, this may not be the venue for you.

The day has, beside blossoms, Asparagus officinalis prepared in various culinary styles at many stands.

You may ask: Why an asparagus festival in West Brookfield? There is a one word answer: History. The town is the home of cultivation of the plant in the United States.

A Dutchman, Diederik Leertouwer, had been appointed his nation’s consul. On land he had been assigned in a little town on the Quaboag River, he started growing asparagus. He must have liked West Brookfield, as he stayed long enough to be buried in the Indian Cemetery. How many rural New England towns can boast having a diplomatic community, tiny as it was.

Asparagus Festival CREDIT MELINDA CZUBThough flowers abound from local growers, the theme of asparagus is pervasive; gourmets even can find it in The Congregational Church’s beloved chowder.

Local restaurants will offer their takes on the day’s star vegetable. There is usually some new method of preparation to sample every year.

If your love of asparagus continues after the festival, the annually updated cookbook is available. The aspiring grower will find roots on sale for planting. After being established, asparagus will produce every year for about two decades.

It is possible that someone will come to the common for the flowers and is not as enamored of asparagus as most attendees. They need not fast. Pig Park BBQ will provide its Memphis-style ribs, pulled pork and brisket for anyone fighting a cholesterol deficiency. All their meats are cooked on site, smoked for six to 16 hours and made from scratch.

Music will be going on through the day. Local Celtic and folk standout, Dick Chase, will be in charge of that. Chase, expert in four stringed instruments, will perform with Rick Ottman, his partner in the Millboys.

Also on tap will be renowned guitar soloist, Jim Lamothe. Lori Brooks, local classic folk and rock performer, will take the stage, as well.

AsparagusFestivalDOther performers include folk artists Suzanne LePage and Al Laskowski, as well as Pam Abalone on guitar and Jerry Stiles on bass.

Kids are always catered to at the festival. The play area has been expanded, and there will be the ever-popular frog-jumping contest. Also, Clownz for Kids will be on hand to entertain fair-goers.

Of course, there will be numerous flower vendors and demonstrators, such as blacksmith Rob Lyon. Does your kid want a tattoo? Relax, Sangita has the henna variety.

It was a horrible winter in Central Massachusetts. Still, we lived through it. A sunny day on the common may not be heaven, but put it together with the Asparagus and Flower Heritage Festival and it goes a long way to erase those icy memories.

Head west on Route 9 to West Brookfield on May 16. When you see the crowd and the historic Rice Fountain, you will have arrived. The festival runs from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., rain or shine. For more information, visit asparagusfestival.blogspot.com.

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