Pawpaw costumes

File Photo.

The Ohio Pawpaw Festival, celebrating America’s largest fruit tree, is returning to Athens County in mid-September for its 23rd year, from Friday, Sept. 17, to Sunday, Sept. 19.

The Ohio Pawpaw Festival is an educational community event and festival located at Lake Snowden near Albany celebrating one of America’s largest and only native tree fruits, the pawpaw.

The pawpaw is North America’s largest native tree fruit, known for its creamy texture and tropical flavor. Southern Ohio is often regarded as the home of some of the largest and best tasting wild pawpaw patches on the planet.

The event, which goes all weekend, seeks to highlight the rich history and culinary possibilities of the pawpaw through delectable foods, and a full line-up of presentations and activities that cover pawpaw growing, cooking, genetics, medical use and other topics related to sustainability, the festival’s website said.

A weekend pass is $50; Friday only pass is $15; Saturday only pass is $20; Sunday only pass is $15. Kids aged 12 and under are free. Discount offered to active duty military and seniors. Parking is free.

Special events at the festival include competitions for the best and biggest pawpaw, a pawpaw cook-off, a best pawpaw-related work of art and the ever-popular pawpaw-eating contest.

Due to the widespread circulation of the Delta variant in the United States, the Ohio Pawpaw Festival is strongly recommending that attendees wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, when on the festival grounds, according to the website. This recommendation is subject to change.

The festival is a special project of Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Area Program, which is dedicated to the identification, protection and appropriate development of the natural, cultural, recreational and economic resources that make up Appalachian Ohio to enhance the quality of life of the region’s residents, the festival’s website said.

The Pawpaw Festival also strives to be a zero-waste event, meaning vendors will only be serving food on compostable materials.

In 2019, the Ohio Pawpaw Festival able to divert 87.534% of waste, meaning the Ohio Pawpaw Festival stopped 2,968 pounds of waste from making its way to the landfill. Reusable cups helped to keep almost 300 pounds of material from the landfill, the website said.

The schedule for the 2021 Ohio Pawpaw Festival is:

Friday, Sept. 17

4:30 p.m. — The Randys

6:00 p.m. — Drift Mouth

7:30 p.m. — Electric Funeral – A Black Sabbath Tribute

9:00 p.m. — The D-Rays

10:30 p.m. — Hellnaw

Saturday, Sept. 18

11:30 a.m. — Steve Free

12:30 p.m. — JonJonJon Slater

1:30 p.m. — Amethystone

3:00 p.m. — Victorious KayBirds

4:30 p.m. — Come On Come Ons

5:30 p.m. — Pawpaw Eating Contest

6:00 p.m. — Jorma Kaukonen with John Hurlbut

7:30 p.m. — The Wild Honeybees

9:00 p.m. — Larry Elefante

10:30 p.m. — Freekbass & The Bump Assembly

Sunday, Sept. 19

11:30 a.m. — Alexander High School Marching Band

1:00 p.m. — Megan Bee

2:00 p.m. — Hill Spirits

3:30 p.m. — The Band Keesey

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