There was an autumn chill on the air and an autumn harvest feast for the senses at the second annual Purple Onion Festival. A steady crown streamed through the Millennium Park event, sampling food from a variety of vendors and exploring options on accessing local and seasonal products from across the Peterborough area.
“It’s been a wonderful day,” smiled Transition Town’s Trent Rhode, one of the festival organizers. “And a wonderful opportunity for everyone involved.”
The event featured food samples from a variety of venues, including Rare Grill House, Parkhill on Hunter, the Peterborough Golf and Country Club, and Schubert’s Fine Foods.
Several local growers were on hand to sell their produce, giving the festival a market feel. There were also a number of local non-profit organizations present, such as Peterborough Green-Up and the Peterborough Community Garden Network, making the event as educational as it was entertaining.
“Really, it is education through celebration,” explained Rhode. “People are so much more receptive to ideas and concepts when they are having a good time. And while people have come to eat great food and enjoy an autumn festival, they’re also learning about the importance of our local food system. They’re coming together as a community through a shared interest in local foods.”
Chef Steve Benns, Co-ordinator of Fleming College’s Culinary Program, saw the event as an opportunity for some of his students to get valuable experience.
“They’ve been meeting some of Peterborough’s top chefs,” he noted. “They’re meeting some of the suppliers of the area’s best local foods, getting the opportunity to cook in front of a crowd, and learning a whole lot about the local food movement.”
Event volunteer, Jaclin Brown, was impressed by what she saw.
“I can believe how many people there are,” she exclaimed. “And I can’t believe the support being shown for local foods. This is proof that our community can come together – is really willing to celebrate our local foods together.”
“I love the fact that the event merges local businesses and restaurants with local growers and producers,” added fellow volunteer, Anna King. “Local food is the backbone of a self-sustaining community. And this festival helps showcase the many people involved in making our community more sustainable.”
The busiest area of the event seemed to be the catering tent, where local chefs were strutting their stuff.
“This is so delicious,” said festival-goer, Chelsea Thompson between bites of goat burger. “I’ve been trying my best to get into seasonal eating, and a day like today makes it really easy.”
While I didn’t manage to sample my way through all the venues, I did manage some Sriracha pork belly from Rare Grill House, a Crosswind Farm chevre slider from Holiday Inn Waterfront, and some BBQ duck with 3 cheese pasta from Elmhirt’s.
I also checked out a set of live music from the wonderfully talented Kendall and got my bike tuned up by the volunteer mechanics from the Peterborough Community Bike Shop.
A pretty sweet way to kick off autumn, if you ask me.
For more information on the Purple Onion Festival, please visit http://www.thepurpleonion.org/