Record crowds catch Rhubarb Fever

Staff reports
Four-year-old Shaylee Smet shows off the big leaf winning leaf she entered in the big leaf contest.

Rhubarb Fest was really big this year. Friday's crowd was steady from before opening time and never let up. "It was a record both days," said Darlene Johnson, founder of the festival that started with 13 rhubarb dishes and 67 tasters back in 1990.

Friday also had perfect weather, with temperatures in the low 70s and no signs of rain.

"Fabulous," was how Johnson described the entire two-day event. "It was a record both days. It was constant. They stood there with their umbrellas in the rain," she said.

 She said there was some rain on Saturday morning, but people were prepared. They just popped up the umbrellas and stayed in line. In all 753 signed in at Friday's tasting tent to sample rhubarb treats, with 1,000 signing in on Saturday.

More than 200 runners showed up for the Rhubarb Run's 5K, one-mile fun run and Little Sprout's sprint.

Shaylee Smet, 4, showed off the biggest rhubarb leaf. The leaf was 36 inches across. This was the second time in the last three years that Smet has won. There were 25 contestants in the contest.

Darlene Johnson noted that eight of the contestants in the rhubarb leaf contest had leaves more than 30 inches, which is a pretty good size for a leaf.

Kevin B. Wilder, a caricature artist from Potosi, Wisconsin came back for the second year in a row. "I've been pretty busy besides the weather," said Wilder. "Last year it was non-stop. I hope it will be this year as well. Pam Myers invited me back. This is a nice festival and a wonderful community."

Johnson said the Rhubarb Festival Committee booth sold out of all the cookbooks, pottery and after Friday, went to have more T-shirts made for Saturday. "I think we'll reach our goal on the number of pies sold," Johnson said. She receives feedback from bake sales that bring in booths for the event, with results not officially known.

This year's goal was to have 2,000 homemade rhubarb pies sold.

The Rhubarb Recipe contest also was well attended, with 23 rhubarb entries - 11 rhubarb pies and 22 other rhubarb treats. The winning pie was made by two Reynolds women, Stacie Roe and Anti Lloyd who were Suzy Bogguss fans and decorated the top crust with crusted letters saying "We (heart) Suzy Bogguss."

"This is the first pie we've ever made," said Roe.

Saturday included more for people to do, with the morning runs, a Crafts in the Courtyard at the Mercer County Courthouse, kids activities on the closed off block east of Central Park that had a dunk tank, petting zoo, pony rides and a rhubarb derby run by Aledo Boy Scout Pack. There was even a bouncing balloon, for a Mercer County Cheerleaders fund-raiser.

Darlene Johnson says she is amazed at how the festival has grown. "We've created something that's just hard to stop," she said.

For more stories and photos see the June 10 issue of The Times Record

Live entertainment on the Aledo Band Shell stage had a lot of audience attendance.