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Festival had the dirt on mushrooms

ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - Participants admire a mushroom display at the annual Estacada Festival of the Fungus. The event was held at Estacada High School on Saturday, Nov. 5.Estacada was mad about mushrooms this weekend.

On Saturday, Nov. 5, aficionados from all over the region stopped by Estacada High School for demonstrations, displays, art and children’s activities all pertaining to mushrooms at the city’s annual Festival of the Fungus.

Nearby, several restaurants served special mushroom-themed dishes.

Steve Schmidt, president of the Estacada Fungus Association, estimated that the festival drew 100 people in its first hour. In addition to Estacada residents, people came from as far as Astoria and Brush Prairie, Wash., for the event.

“After five years, people are really beginning to know us,” he said of the crowd.

In February, the volunteers and mushroom enthusiasts that organized the festival formed the Estacada Fungus Association in order to focus on mycology all year long.

“The fact that we’re a membership organization now has brought a lot of enthusiasm,” Schmidt added.

At the center of the festival were tables filled with mushrooms that members of the association had picked in the Mt. Hood National Forest earlier in the week.

Schmidt estimated that the display featured several hundred different species of mushrooms.

“All types (of mushrooms) are represented. There’s even one growing out of a dead log,” he said. “There’s a lot of unusual stuff on those tables.”

Schmidt said his favorite mushroom was amanitas flavas, a large red mushroom with spots.

“They’re poisonous, but they’re spectacular,” he said.

Many appreciate the opportunity to learn more about mushrooms in a laid-back atmosphere.

“I love talking to the people here who share their knowledge,” said Connie Redmond, a member of the Estacada Fungus Association.

Tony McMigas, a former president of the Oregon Mycological Society, enjoys teaching festival participants more about mushrooms.

“The best part is when you’re talking to them (about mushrooms), and they say ‘wow you’re kidding me,’” he said.

McMigas believes the most interesting mushroom in the Pacific Northwest is the lobster mushroom.

“It’s been parasitized by another fungus,” he explained, noting that the second fungus gives the mushroom its red color.

McMigas encourages anyone interested in mushrooms to learn more.

“If you can grow a radish, you can grow mushrooms,” he said.

For more information on mushrooms, the Festival of the Fungus and the Estacada Fungus Association, visit www.estacadafungusassociation.org.