A Successful 2021 MPA Mushroom Festival

This year’s Mount Pisgah Arboretum (MPA) Mushroom festival was different in many ways – the best being that it was in person after our 2020 virtual festival (you can still purchase a recording). It was fabulous to see so many happy and enthusiastic faces – you could tell by their smiling eyes. Yes, it was Halloween, but I don’t think that fact completely explained the number of mushroom themed costumes and accessories worn by the mycophile festival goers. 

A big thank you to the Mount Pisgah Arboretum staff, our Lane Community College (LCC) partner, and the CMS mushroom display coordinators, Peg Boulay and Bruce Newhouse. Bruce & Peg met bi-weekly for 3 months with the festival planning team to discuss how to make this a safe and successful in person event. All of the teams planning helped to make the event a big success.

All of the major decisions about how the festival would be conducted (pre-sales tickets, capacity, COVID requirements, etc.) were made by the Mount Pisgah Arboretum who hosts the festival. As festival partners, both CMS and LCC agreed that the logistics of the festival added a level of safety and comfort that was needed for an in person event. In order to accommodate more spacing inside the White Oak Pavilion for the display, CMS and LCC worked with the MPA to re-position numerous indoor displays to outside the pavilion. In the end, we enjoyed having more room inside the pavilion and may adopt some of the changes for future festivals.

Another change this year was 5 CMS member forays to collect for the festival rather than our normal 3. Festival forays provide an opportunity to learn much more about the diversity of mushrooms we have in Oregon. And, it is always exciting to see a mushroom you collected on the display at the festival. Thank you to our festival collecting foray leaders: Cheshire Mayrsohn, Dylan Eckert, Ron & Sandy Patton, and Matt Mathiason. And, to our foray coordinator, Matthew Johnson.

Saturday Setup of the Mushroom Display

A new display layout to allow for more spacing
A unique way to collect mushrooms
Lots of mushrooms and lots of volunteers
Joe Spivack identifying mushrooms with Lee and Ron
Who wants to ID light spored gilled mushrooms?
LCC students 4
LCC students are always a big part of the displays success!
Joe and Ron Hamill consult the mushroom display database
Everyone's favorite mushroom on setup day - Pholiota highlandenses
Peg Boulay and Ron selecting mushroom cards
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Mushroom Display Statistics

The day before the festival a cadre of CMS volunteers and students of the LCC Biology of Mushroom class taught by Susie Holmes started gathering at 9am to setup the display. By the end of the day on Saturday there were 387 unique species of mushrooms identified and placed on the tables, including 63 species that were new to the show. Of special interest were the specimens of fungi labeled as “Archie Creek fire fungi” collected by Ron Hamill. Ron served as our expert identifier along with Joe Spivack. Other CMS members helped; as well as a surprise drop in visit by Noah Siegel.

A few comments about the festival – 

Brad Van Appel, Director of the Mount Pisgah Arboretum: WooHoo! It looks like we did it folks! We seem to have pulled off a successful modified Mushroom Festival! Thank you all for your hard work and strategic thinking. It looks like all our planning paid off. The event felt safe to me and to others that I talked with. Even with less than a quarter of the 2019 attendance, and a lot fewer activities, the festival felt vibrant and engaging. At the same time, the smaller numbers allowed for more social distancing.

Peg Boulay – CMS Mushroom Display Co-coordinator: The festival had a great vibe. People were patient and focused on the educational aspects.  I have to give credit to the Arboretum staff for their plans, backup plans, and contingency plans. The last 2 years have required us to experiment and adapt. Now we need to decide what changes we want to adopt on a more permanent basis.

The in person Mushroom Festival!

The expanded space eliminated crowding in the display
A large and showy sespitose mushroom
More mushrooms on display
Dylan at the Edible & Poisonous tent
All about education!
The CMS Sales booth is open for business!
Erin selling t-shirts to festival goers
Peg Boulay talks to festival goers about Chanterelle identification
CMS member Dan Berlant & family
Chris & Molly in mushroom hats and this years psilocybin t-shirt
Baile Folklorico & Antonio Huertayer add to the festivites
Julie Hamilton - the artist for this year's t-shirt
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The CMS sales booth did quite well despite the reduced attendance of 1200 versus the norm of over 4000 festival goers. CMS volunteers were busy all day selling the very popular 2021 Psilocybin mushroom t-shirt by Bend artist Julie Hamilton. We also sold aprons, a few of our past t-shirts, CMS cookbooks and stickers, and mushroom earrings, pins, and magnets crafted by CMS member Sandy Patton. By the end of the day we had grossed over $5000 in sales; a festival record for CMS. At the end of the sales booth and positioned at the entrance to the main mushroom display, our CMS membership chairperson, Erika Huston, engaged festival goers about the benefits of joining CMS and directed them to our website to join in the fun.

Another new tradition that started with the 2020 virtual festival is definitely here to stay – the Festival Mycoblitz! An annual mycoblitz to accompany the festival adds an extra educational and research component to the festival and gives many more people in the community the ability to participate and contribute. Here are some additional benefits:

– the observations on iNat last indefinitely (the show that keeps on showing!)

– the observations on iNat contribute to a geographic range and fruiting time data base

– the best photos provide researchers with detailed physical features of mushrooms

– the observations are sometimes linked to collections: so a researcher can see a mushroom also in its natural state, not just its dried state as a collection

– it also accommodates an observation (photos) that does not require collection/harvest of a mushroom, as many folks prefer

The mycoblitz total count is currently at 2,323 observations, with 413 unique species. Just over 55% of the observations (1290) are classified as research grade (3 identifiers in agreement on the species).

Two hundred and fifty six people uploaded fungi photos to iNaturalist in Lane County with dates tagged between October 21st and 30th. Our top observer for the mycoblitz was Hillary Rose Dawson, a PhD student in the Soil Plant Atmosphere lab at the University of Oregon. Hillary uploaded 194 mushroom photos during the mycoblitz. Coming in second was CMS member Ann Goddard who took the extra effort to contribute her 157 mushrooms to the display tagged with the iNaturalist observation number; which facilitated easier identification. Noah Siegel who was our invited identifier for the mycoblitz also contributed 119 observations to the mycoblitz.

Our top identifiers for the mycoblitz were invited mycologists Noah Siegel and Else Velenga. We also had some local IDers that contributed a great deal: Susie Holmes (LCC Biology of Mushrooms instructor), Rachael Rose (UofO student of mycology and ecology), and August Jackson (MPA Interpretation Coordinator).

Thank you to everyone who helped to plan the festival, attended a foray, collected mushrooms on their own, participated in the mycoblitz, helped setup, or volunteered on the day of the festival. We hope to be able to see everyone in person again next year!

More Festival photos by Heather Sielicki

Mount Pisgah Mushroom Festival page