The Asparagus Festival returns for its 10th year.
Reminder Publishing submitted photos

HADLEY — New England Public Media’s Asparagus Festival is returning to the Hadley Town Commons on June 1 to celebrate the festival’s 10th year.

Vanessa Cerillo, the senior director of marketing, communications and events for NEPM, said that the festival is a “wonderful event” for the community and has become a kickoff event of sorts for the summer festival season.

“We’re really proud that we’ve been able to keep it going and build on a wonderful relationship with the town and the farmers and the community that helps build the festival out and make it what it is,” said Cerillo, in an interview with Reminder Publishing. “It’s just continued to grow and have a big success, and it’s just a nice community effort.”

According to Cerillo, this year’s festival will feature “a great lineup of bands” who specialize in all types of genres performing on the Fabulous 413 stage.

Cerillo said the stage programming portion of the show is going to be hosted by Monte Belmonte and Kallis Smith, the two hosts of The Fabulous 413 radio show on NEPM. Musical acts performing will include Western Massachusetts singer/songwriters Lexi Weege and JJ Slater, “the cultural sonic fusion” of TapRoots, New Orleans jazz and soul artist Glen David Andrews and blues artist The Diego Mongue Band.

“[Belmonte and Smith] are such wonderful ambassadors for the station and the community,” Cerillo said. “They do just a tremendous amount of good work kind of highlighting and celebrating on their show the wonderful parts of Western Mass, so it’s going to be fun to have them on stage.”

Smith and Belmonte will also be spearheading the festival’s famous Willy Hibbard Memorial Asparagus Bunching Contest at 12:30 p.m., where people work alongside asparagus farmers to pick up a bunch of asparagus with their hands to tie it and weigh it for the contest.

“We had so many people interested in getting up there and being part of the bunching contest, so we’re going to make that an even bigger part of this year’s celebration,” Cerillo said.

Belmonte and Smith will also be joined at some point during the festival by U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Worcester) and Massachusetts Department of Agriculture Commissioner Ashley Randle to talk about the festival and highlight some of the breweries and food trucks that are featured throughout the day.

Aside from those happenings, Cerillo also added that NEPM has a new collaboration with the Wild Garden of Childhood Nursery to bring arts and crafts projects.

Children will also be able to interact with PBS Kids characters Curious George and Malik from “Work it Out Wombats” and watch a live episode of the Tumble Podcast.

According to Cerillo, the Tumble Podcast will conduct a live children-related quiz about asparagus.

“There’s science, there’s education, there’s all kinds of stuff that happens at this festival,” Cerillo said.

Also present at this year’s festival will be a “Provisions Beers & Spears tent,” which will feature local beers, ciders and wines from Headwater Cider Company, New City Brewery, White Lion Brewing, Building 8 Brewery, Element Brewing & Distilling, Abandoned Building Brewery, Leadfoot Brewing, Black Birch Vineyard, Loophole Brewing, Amherst Brewing, Ginger Libation and Katalyst Kombucha.

Local food trucks and restaurants at the festival will include Spuds with Love, Wake the Dead Donuts, Holyoke Hummus Company, Esselon Café, Vibesman’s Jerk Shack, Dean’s Beans, Ginger Love Café, P’frogi, Crooked Stick Pops, Brusiers BBQ, Vegan Pizza Land, Thai Chili Food Truck and Masa Mexicana.

Cerillo said all of the food trucks and restaurants are asked to incorporate asparagus into their offerings in some capacity.

The festival is free to the public but there is a suggested donation of $5 per person or $20 per family to support local media in Western Massachusetts.

Cerillo said she expects a large crowd this year after it was reported that 7,500 people attended last year’s festival.

“We’re looking at a wonderful crowd this year,” she said. “It should be lots of fun.”

The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Readers can learn more by visiting nepm.org/nepm-events/2024-03-13/nepm-asparagus-festival.

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