Wardsboro’s Famed Turnip Festival Returns
The 13th annual Gilfeather Turnip Festival is scheduled for Saturday, October 24, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It takes place in the Wardsboro Town Hall and under tents on Main Street, rain or shine. Admission and parking is free. The festival is the largest fundraiser for the Friends of the Wardsboro Library, and supports the Gloria Danforth Memorial Building, the home of the Wardsboro Public Library. The event celebrates the Gilfeather turnip, which was first propagated in Wardsboro in the early 1900s by farmer John Gilfeather, whose farm still exists, right in the heart of Wardsboro. Current owners, Carol and Bob Backus carry on the tradition of Farmer John by planting a large crop of the heirloom turnip that originated on their farm at the turn of the century.
The festival has grown in popularity through the years as more people discover the culinary possibilities of the now-famous sweet tuber. It’s exciting that a humble root vegetable – which some say is actually more of a rutabaga – has attracted so much attention to this small town, even after leaf season has peaked. In January 2015, a bill was introduced into the State House in Montpelier to officially designate the Gilfeather turnip as the official State vegetable, exciting news for the town of Wardsboro!
During the event, the turnip cart outside town hall is always overflowing with 600 to 700 pounds of Gilfeathers, many grown on neighboring farms and local gardens. The turnips are sold by the pound and “they go fast,” according to the Friends’ top turnip sales person, Cris Tarnay.
She adds, “They are hardy and easy to cultivate from seed, but shouldn’t be harvested before a bite of hard frost. It acquires a notable sweetness after a frost and that sweetness is what makes the Gilfeather so special.”
More than 100 pounds will be cooked for the event’s
signature turnip soup. Over 200 pounds of the distinctive vegetable will be given out to various Wardsboro chefs, who will prepare different recipes that will be featured as tastings at the Turnip Café. Savory entrées and sweet desserts, all featuring Gilfeathers as the main ingredient, will be offered. Back by popular demand is the “Chef’s Station, cooking up turnip latkes to order and served with local maple syrup. All recipes are from the second edition of the Gilfeather Turnip Cookbook, compiled and published by the Friends and sold in the Turnip Shoppe in Town Hall.
Anticipation is always high for the festival’s annual Turnip Contest. Contestants may register Gilfeathers of all sizes and shapes from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. The winners and ribbon awards will be announced from the stage in Town Hall at 1 p.m.
Tracey Medeiros will be the contest’s celebrity judge this year. Medeiros, who is a contributor to Edible Green Mountains magazine, a noted cookbook author and frequent guest chef on cooking segments featured on WCAX TV., will greet festival goers before and after the judging and awards ceremony, and will be available to sell and sign all of her popular books.
More than 30 craft and farmers’ market vendors will be set up inside Town Hall as well as outdoors under the big tent and several smaller tents. Live music is always a big draw at the Turnip Festival. Jimmy Knapp, Wardsboro’s strolling musician, will serenade visitors with his original Gilfeather turnip ballads and many more of his own guitar compositions. Other local musicians and entertainers are scheduled to perform throughout the day as well. For further information on the Festival, call the Wardsboro Public Library at 802-896-3416 or visit