The 23rd annual National Lentil Festival will hit Pullman Friday and Saturday with music, a Lentil cook-off and a street fair.
"This festival is a great event to welcome back our returning students and greet our new ones," Festival Director Vicki Leeper said. "It gives new students a chance to get a taste of what the Pullman community has to offer."
The festival will kick off with entertainment sponsored by Thomas Hammer Coffee Roasters and music sponsored by ZFun 106.1 FM, she said. The second half of the festivities will run from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Reaney Park and will feature a race in the morning and the Legendary Lentil Cook-Off in the afternoon.
Leeper said there will be several kinds of bands playng, from blues to southern rock and R&B. She said for the lentil cook-off Saturday afternoon, more than 118 recipes, including one from Switzerland, have been submitted. Judges will have to narrow that list down to six recipes and the grand prize winner will receive $1,000.
Another category of the contest is a "I Hate Lentils," which calls for those who do not like lentils, and the person with the best dish that appears to have the least lentil flavor in it will be awarded a $100 cash prize.
Charlene Jasper, owner of The Daily Grind Espresso, said she thinks it is important to sponsor community events such as these so people can get together and celebrate the upcoming harvest. Last year, about 10,000 people attended. It is exciting to see that many people show up for an event like the Lentil Festival, she said.
Director of Research and Information for the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, Todd Scholz, said the council represents lentil growers across the nation, and because Pullman is one of the largest lentil growers, it is fun to have a festival to showcase what Pullman does for the nation. In terms of why so many college students attend, Scholz said the environment provides a fun atmosphere to relax and have something to do before school starts.
"What more could college students want?" Scholz said. "There's free chili, a beer garden, free entertainment ... no, really I just feel it's a good time to welcome everyone back, and it's a great opportunity to educate people about lentils, what they look like and how they grow."