Stalking the Empire Asparagus Festival: Kick Ass-paragus
Two runners who got their Ass-paragus kicked
Here at Jaunted, we spend considerable time and (virtual) ink drooling over weird food festivals. So, this summer, we've decided to visit a few. All this week our Michigan embed Lara Zielin will report back from the Empire Asparagus Festival.
Ron Zywicki, this year's winner of Empire, Michigan’s “Kick Ass-paragus” 5k may have finished the race in 17:39, but the participants who ran more slowly—perhaps because they filled up on the asparagus beer the night before during the town’s annual Asparagus Festival kickoff—probably weren’t phased. It’s not as if the race is all that competitive, especially considering they don’t begin it with an actual clock, but rather by dropping a single asparagus spear on the ground: when it lands, you go.
The real bummer of running the 5k at a leisurely pace is that you get to the Asparagus Festival’s food tent later than everyone else, lengthening your wait time for a slice of asparagus pizza, or an asparagus boule, or get a brain freeze on some asparagus ice cream.
Asparagus ice cream!
Which is why, if the wait is too long, festival-goers (whether they kicked ass-paragus or not) should consider heading next door to Deering’s Market and picking up some asparagus brats. Store owner Phil Deering, a second-generation butcher, makes them by hand and only when the asparagus is in season. “It’s about a 30- to 60-day window,” he says, but they go fast. “They’ve become really popular.”
He makes them with just asparagus or, for those who want more of a kick, with asparagus and jalapeno. He says he experimented putting Michigan cherries into the brats, but the flavors didn’t mix. “I want to retain the asparagus flavor,” he says.
For those looking to cook their brats right away, the beach just down the block has a public pavilion and grills. It’s also where the Kick Ass-paragus run started, meaning there’s probably a wilted asparagus spear on the ground that you could dust off and keep for good luck for next year’s run. Or feed it to your dog. Whichever.
[Photos: Lara Zielin]