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Morel Mushroom Fest honors Mingo farmer for third straight year

Published: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 8:40 a.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 8:44 a.m. CST
(File Photo)
Greencastle Tavern co-owner Theresa Maher weighs out each plate of moral mushrooms for hungry customers during last year’s Morel Mushroom Fest.

MINGO – Morel mushrooms – elusive, tasty and for many Iowa hunters, an obsession.

Several residents identify springtime by counting how many hunters are out searching for this unique fungi. People can spend days searching for these rare mushrooms, checking a variety of secret spots and using the special skills they have collected over the years of mushroom hunting.

Despite the difficulty in locating these honeycomb-like treasures, some hunters in Jasper County are collecting these delicacies for one reason — to honor a Mingo legend.

For the third straight year, Greencastle Tavern hopes to bring the community together to remember Mingo farmer, David Parker, with its annual Morel Mushroom Fest Saturday.

“Dave was Greencastle’s favorite son. He was born and raised there. He grew up on a family farm out there. He spend his whole life in the Jasper County community,” Ryan Maher, owner of the Greencastle Tavern said. “This was a great way to continue what Dave was, who he was and what he was all about.”

Maher was a close friend of Parker, who died in 2015. Every year, Maher hosts the event to honor the farmer and raise funds for Jasper County schools in his name.

“Dave was a really giving guy. He really cared about kids,” Maher said. “We wanted to turn the celebration into something a little bit more. It is kind of a celebration of his life and it is an auction that benefits the local schools in Jasper County for the students who are going to further their education either in agricultural education or a trade school industry.”

So far, the event has raised more than $4,200 in scholarships for students in Baxter, Colfax-Mingo and PCM community school districts.

According to Maher, the reason to celebrate Parker with a morel mushroom festival is simple — the mushrooms remind him of his good friend.

“The morels itself bring a lot of people together from different parts of the community — young, old, farmers, iron workers, CEOs, everyone shares a love for morel mushrooms,” he said. “That is kind of Dave. Dave was about the community. He was about being friends with everyone... He crossed a lot of lines the same way the morels do.”

The bar owner said although the event honors the Mingo farmer, all people who simply love the morel mushrooms can come out to the event, enjoy some good food and have a great time.

“Morel is one of the fruits of our timber that only comes once a year,” he said. “It is a day of a lot of events, a lot of things going on, a lot of entertainment. It is just a really good day to sit out on the patio, and enjoy good music and good food.”

A ticket to the event, which costs $20, includes a supper of a smoked pork chop, morel mushrooms, a side, a roll, a beverage and a door prize. The dinner begins at 5 p.m. and will continue till 7 p.m.

“We prepare the morel mushrooms fresh that day. They are deep-fried in peanut oil the day of the event. They come hot off the fryer. The pork chops come hot off the grill,” Maher said. “Once you have a morel mushroom, you are going to be hooked. They are that addictive.”

An auction will take place after the supper. The proceeds of the auction will be used for scholarships for agriculture and trade school students in Jasper County.

Starting at 1 p.m., there will be a bags tournament, a chainsaw artist and live music performed by country singer Nick Ryan. From 8 p.m. to midnight, Cedar Rapids native Adam Beck will play live music.

For more information, call 641-363-3244, visit the bar and grill at 115 N. Station St. in Mingo or find Greencastle Tavern on Facebook.

Contact Anthony Victor Reyes at areyes@jaspercountytribune.com

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