I love the Finger Lakes small towns and the people who take pride in them. I enjoy getting off the beaten path for a special experience, finding a new nook and cranny in lake country. My senses were alive and rewarded and wanted more. Phelps, NY, “you haven’t seen the last of me!”
All of my senses were active as I entered the Phelps Sauerkraut Festival in early August. Sure, I expected to test out the taste buds and take in the sights (especially with the camera lens), but when I stepped out of the car – it was the smell that I wished my camera could capture. We’ve heard the stock phrase before, “the sweet pungent odor of sauerkraut”, and it was amazing as I walked across the Fireman’s Field to where all the action was.
It was the 40th year for the Phelps Sauerkraut Festival and some vendors had been there since the beginning. The gentleman pictured here with the pizzas and his daughter, who happened to be a soccer mom acquaintance of mine, exuberated the second sense – that of pride. 89 years old and still making the pies.
Phelps is a pretty cool small town and with all the cabbage growers and historically, the kraut factories, in the area were self declared the Sauerkraut Capital of the World, and this weekend is their annual weekend to show it all off.
Working in tourism I get to go to a lot of festivals and events and concerts and tours, and no matter how big or small something is what makes the event is not one thing, but a mixture of many things – the food, the music, the fun, the family, the setting and the weather. Those folks in Phelps don’t let a little drizzle stop their festival. Bring on the kraut and the music and the rides and the games. It was a great small town festival, people meandering, stopping at a ride, taking pictures, meeting new friends and bowling with cabbage heads.
Yep, you read it right, bowling with cabbage heads for charity. Betcha can’t do that just anywhere – and trust me, as I watched it – it’s not something you probably want to try at home.
Let me get back to the food, I mentioned Pizza and the smell of Sauerkraut, but where was the kraut? It was in obvious places and surprising places. Have you ever tried chocolate sauerkraut brownies? Moist, doesn’t even describe the mouthwatering sensations of those! It’s probably less fattening than all that oil too! Take home item from the fair for sure! Oh, the festival has all the standard items at any fair and for those unadventurous, you’ll be satisfied, but for those of us that go to the Sauerkraut Festival in order to taste Sauerkraut, there was the ultimate booth.
Check out this menu, this picture – turn on your smellovision and imagination and you’ll know the succulent flavors that were going down at this booth! The pride was here again, these vendors’ grandmother had started the recipes they were using and relayed the times when they were young and would help her pick and roll! If you wanted a boring old side of fries with your hot dog you could get it, but the booth sponsored by the community basketball team had free sauerkraut on the side and you know what, it made me feel good that I was putting some revenues into the coffers of the local kids and family thing. May Phelps thrive on Sauerkraut forever!
If you’re reading this right before dinner, I hope that you’ve pulled out the Kielbasa and the Silver Floss Sauerkraut and you’re ready to have your own sensory experience. But, I do know there’s one other sense that I got that you’ll just have to go to the festival yourself to get. It’s the sense of hospitality and good times. Everyone – and I mean everyone – was so glad that I’d come to the Phelps Community and was enjoying their event. The musicians were smiling, friends were waving, the boy scouts directing the parking were making suggestions for the best view of the parade, and the vendors were recommending each others wares!
Unfortunately, I had to leave, but as a strolled back across the Fireman’s field, I took one more deep breath and thought to myself: I may have to wait another year to enjoy this much sauerkraut and cabbage in any one place, but I don’t have to wait a year to stroll the streets of Phelps (the Thomas Kincaide Gallery, the Arts Center, the Howe House Historical Museum with its two story outhouse, stop at the coffee shop, have a great meal in the historic Phelps Hotel). My thoughts drifted through town like a sweet pungent odor of sauerkraut, they were warmed with the hospitality of the people at the festival.
I love small towns and the people of the town and getting off the beaten path for a special experience. My senses were alive and rewarded and wanted more. Phelps, “you haven’t seen the last of me!”