Reimagined, revamped festival slated for Aug. 4-6

The 26th annual Humongous Fungus Festival is set for Aug. 4-6 in Crystal Falls, which is home to the world’s largest, oldest contigouos living organism — an Armillaria Gallica fungus. (Logo courtesy of humongousfungusfest.com)

CRYSTAL FALLS — After a year lapse, the Iron County Economic Chamber Alliance has stepped up to organize the 26th annual Humongous Fungus Festival on Aug4-6.

The weekend will feature a parade, street dance concert, softball tournament, city-wide rummage sales, Mr. Fungi “Beard”y Pageant, pancake breakfast and even more family-friendly fun.

“This is such a unique and quirky event,” said Leeann Kirkpatrick, event coordinator and office manager for the ICECA. “It’s an event that promotes community pride, supports local businesses and is just plain fun!”

For those who don’t know, Crystal Falls is home to the world’s largest, oldest, contiguous living organism — an Armillaria Gallica fungus — also known as a “honey mushroom” or “shoestring mushroom.” This “Humongous Fungus,” discovered in 1988, spreads across 38 acres of land, weighs in at an estimated 200,000 pounds and is between 1,500 to 10,000 years old. The Humongous Fungus Festival, celebrating this now famous fungus, gained national attention in the mid-1990s and was even featured on Late Night with David Letterman. It has remained a popular event drawing large crowds and followers from around the nation every year.

Kirkpatrick indicated that this year’s event would have many of the classic crowd-pleasing elements the event is known for, and there will be some new events as well. “We’ll have the parade, arts and crafts market, street dance, and community-wide rummage sale, and we’re adding some more mushroom-themed programs throughout the weekend as well,” she said.

One of the new aspects of the Fungus Fest is a Mr. Fungi “Beard”y Pageant at the Historic Crystal Theatre where any current or former Iron County male resident, 18 years or older, can compete in contests of Yooper attire, comedic Q&A and a talent show for the title of Mr. Fungi 2017. Those interested in participating can sign up by contacting the chamber office. Proceeds will benefit the Crystal Theatre and the Fungus Fest.

This year’s street dance features acclaimed guitarist Brian Keith Wallen. Wallen took home second in the world for blues guitar in the 2015 International Blues Challenge, and is coming north from eastern Indiana for the event. The U.P. holds a special place in his heart, and his song “Crazy Beautiful World” from his 2016 album “Going Back Home” is an ode the the breathtaking beauty of the Upper Peninsula.

“We’re excited for the opportunity to bring back this awesome event,” Kirkpatrick added. “We’re going to make it even more fun and funky than ever. Come to the festival to celebrate this unique, ancient lifeform and dance and eat your way through all things fungus!”

More information about the Humongous Fungus Fest can be found at www.iron.org/fungusfest. Those interested in participating in the parade or pageant, volunteering or sponsoring the event can contact the ICECA at info@iron.org