A couple of weekends ago, Hubby and I made our way to the Honeyfest in the nearby town of Lithopolis. Held every year the Friday and Saturday after Labor Day, it’s one of only a handful of festivals dedicated to honey in the nation—and it is one of the best, nicest festivals I’ve been to in a long time, which is saying something as I’ve been to more than my share.
Though this year’s Honeyfest is over, I thought I’d share my visit with you, because not only was it fun, it’s worth taking a road trip for—it was our first time there, and now you’ve almost an entire year to plan your own visit. According to the Honeyfest website, the event’s mission is
…to raise awareness about the importance of the honey bee on the pollination of crops, to increase the consumption of honey and to educate about the science and industry of beekeeping. With the involvement of honey and beekeeping trade associations, we see this event as a component in preserving apiculture, not just in Ohio, but nationwide and globally.
As you know, I’m a proponent of doing what we, as individuals, can for pollinators, especially my particular favourites, mason and bumblebees. And during our wanderings at Honeyfest, we did indeed see a great deal of learning going on—education about bee swarms, for instance, about the sorts of plants they prefer, and talks about beekeeping from local beekeepers.
The first thing I noticed upon arriving was…all the bees! In fact, I suspect the bees (most of them honeybees) were having a better time than the humans, because they were going just as crazy for all of the honey samples available!
Fear not, though. The bees were far more interested in the golden deliciousness than they were the people, and I didn’t see or hear about anyone being stung—which, considering the number of crumb-crunchers there with their parents, is pretty impressive.
The little critters were quite drawn in the flowers in my hair, colourful dress, and brightly-coloured camera bag, but quickly and drunkenly swerved toward the nearest open jar of honey upon realizing I had no pollen to offer. I doubt bees have air traffic cops with breathalyzers, but if they do, a lot of them were booked for drunken flying at the Honeyfest.
Unsurprisingly, we came home with a few pounds of honey ourselves, of all different kinds. I use honey quite a bit in my cooking, baking, and tea-drinking. Those who only purchase honey at their supermarket are often not aware of the many different varieties of honey—and the wonderful different flavour profiles!
Light honeys such as clover and orange blossom tend to be milder in flavour, so they’re good for a variety of uses in your kitchen, from tea-sweetening to baking.
The darker honeys like buckwheat (probably one of the strongest varieties I’v ever enjoyed) are more comparable to molasses—they have a stronger flavour, and as such, you have to pay more attention to what you’re using them with. Personally speaking, I love that richer flavour and thus use it as I would a light honey, but not everyone will want to do that.
Since the darker honeys contain less water, their consistency is thicker, too—but that thicker honey packs in more antioxidants than its lighter cousins! You’ll also find that autumn honeys are darker and more aggressive in flavour than honeys from other seasons—and as luck would have it, the folks from Honeyrun had a fall honey available, which I tasted, fell for, and could hardly hand my money over fast enough to obtain!
Having enjoyed the wonders of tulip poplar, wildflower, alfalfa, goldenrod, buckwheat, and other honeys (my tastes do run toward a stronger, richer honey), orange blossom honey can stay on the shelf at Meijer, as far as I’m concerned! I prefer buying from local beekeepers and apiaries, anyhow—the folks are full of stories and information, and consuming local honeys is said to help alleviate the frustration of allergies.
Many of the honey sellers infuse their honey with herbs; others offered a sort of honey ‘cream’ that would probably be a good cupcake or cookie glaze—save the jalapeno one! That might be better suited to an herbed scone, perhaps. Or just eating right out of the jar with a spoon.
In my introduction, I mentioned that I think the Lithopolis Honeyfest is one of the best fairs or festivals of any sort that I’ve been to, and I mean it. We’ve all been to much-praised events that turn out to be nothing more than booths of the same junky toys, the same junky food, the same junky games…it’s a combination of disappointing and depressing deja vu, particularly when one reads high praise of an event in major national magazines. A much-praised Ohio art festival we had high expectations for as a possible venue for my own work yielded a couple of nice things, but most of the booths were offering mass-produced garbage or worse, and were clearly chosen based not on skill or distinctiveness, but first-come-first-serve. This showed very badly (granted, I’m spoiled by years of the Ann Arbor Art Fairs, but…), and despite our discovery of a terrific local coffee shop, we won’t be attending this supposedly ‘great’ festival again, much less setting up a booth there.
I know exactly what such a blunder feels like, and wouldn’t steer you to a bad event—I hate wasting my time or anyone else’s.
Happily, the Lithopolis Honeyfest is NOT a waste of time—it’s a marvellous way for you and yours to spend an afternoon tasting honey, listening to good local music, enjoying locally-made treats, buying handcrafted goods and art, and visiting the many truly delightful shops lining the streets of Lithopolis where the ‘fest is held.
For one thing, I’d say the folks running Honeyfest are very selective about what is sold at the ‘fest. I don’t think we saw one booth that didn’t offer something of interest in addition to all of the honey and honey-related treats—pottery and ceramics, fun goodies for your garden—including seeds for native plants, delicious-looking offerings from local bakeries, novelty beeswax candles, and lovely jewelry…even wines, meads, and honey-sweetened preserves. I won’t say “something for everyone!”, as that’s difficult to guarantee to a crowd, but there’s certainly a great deal to enjoy, and I will say one would have to be quite a stick-in-the-mud not to enjoy passing a little time at the Honeyfest.
The Honeyfest organizers had some fun with their marketing this year, too—all of the fans they passed out and the t-shirts they sold bore a little bit of a tribute to Dr. Sheldon Cooper!
Pretty fun, aren’t they?
I was also a big fan of this pottery from a local artist—unfortunately, they were not in her booth (despite several visits in an attempt to pick something up!), there were no business cards anywhere, and not even a price tag on that delightful golden skep with its own bees near the back of the shelf in this photo:
Darn! It would have been a charming and a bit droll on our mantle. Also: It’s a skep. With bees on it. Why not?
One of the local Cub Scouts groups (packs?) had set up a booth teaching people how to make bee balm seed tape to plant back home, and a local bakery owner had downright adorable cake pops made to look like bees.
It was an extremely hot Saturday when we visited, but for those made uncomfortable by the heat of the sun as they strolled down Lithopolis’ quaint, shop-lined main street, a bench-filled park shaded by an abundance of trees offered relief and entertainment, for it was here that a daylong concert was going on. Often the quality of music at local festivals can be iffy, but here, it was actually pretty good (at least for the time we spent at Honeyfest). If that’s not your cup of tea, many of LIthopolis’ air-conditioned shops were open as well, happily welcoming Honeyfest visitors.
We had a truly wonderful time at the fair—the bee exhibits and beekeepers were fascinating to listen to and watch, and not only did we come home with plenty of honey, we ate quite a bit of it at the Festival!
I know most of you are outside of Ohio (well outside, in many cases), but if you’re planning a fall trip to the Buckeye State and want to enjoy a few local-flavour events during your visit, I feel pretty confident in saying that the Honeyfest is worth considering. It’s not a huge festival—it’s about the right size, really—and you won’t starve, because there are some of those carnival-type food trucks, but very happily, they’re separate from the rest of the festival, down their own street, so you have to go looking for them instead of their (frankly) besmirching the charm of the Honeyfest itself. This is the best such arrangement I’ve seen in that respect. The people are all very friendly, and you really will find some things you’ve never seen before…and again. All of that honey, and so many varieties, all local!
I’m already looking forward to visiting again next year (if you can’t tell). Besides, I’ve no doubt I’ll need to replenish my honey stock well before then anyhow!