Bradford West Gwillimbury Times - 19 August 2006

Report on the Annual Carrot Fest

(see also John's photo round up - HERE)

 

Painting the Town orange for annual CarrotFest celebration

It's being called the biggest and best CarrotFest ever. Last Saturday, the main street in Bradford was closed to traffic, for the annual Street celebration and party, celebrating the Town's agricultural roots and ties to the Holland Marsh. "It grew from a little open-air market, to what you see today," said Councillor Mikki Nanowski, a volunteer with the CarrotFest Committee.

The 8th Annual CarrotFest featured nearly 100 vendors, bouncing castles for the kids, live entertainment - from the talented dancers of Elite Dance Corps, to the Princess Karma Magic & Kid Show "Carrotsticks" - a Family Bicycle Poker Run, CarrotFest Go-Kart Derby, Pancake breakfast, and fundraising BBQ. Over at the Bradford Arena, a mini-midway offered rides and games.
"Gwilly", the town's carrot mascot, mingled with the crowd, handing out free "Honey Bunny" ready-to-eat carrots, donated by Top of the Hill Farms in Bradford.

Over at the CiBC, the YNOT Bradford West Gwillimbury Youth Council provided a preview of the upcoming Battle of the Bands, scheduled for September 1st, while BMX stunt riders awed the crowd, with their jumps and flips. The event was not just for kids. There was an Arm-wrestling competition at the Village Inn,' a 24 Carrot Texas Hold-em Poker Tournament that filled two tables, a visit from "Elvis" and "Memphis Motion", and Pro Wrestling matches, featuring wrestlers with Ontario Indy Wrestling. A Beer Garden did a brisk business, from 11:30 a.m. to midnight.

Over at Poco Cappello Ristorante, contestants of all ages entered the Spaghetti-Eating Contest -a fundraiser for CarrotFest. Participants had 5 minutes to chow down on Chef James Charman's spaghetti in tomato sauce, trying to beat last year's record of 2 3/4 Ibs. Winner Stephen Gillmore broke all records, by downing 4.2 Ibs. of spaghetti in 5 minutes.

The festival drew a record number of visitors this year -.including John Stolarczyk, who came all the way from Bradford, England, and celebrated his 56th birthday at CarrotFest. Stolarczyk is the "founder, curator, organizer" of the world's only virtual Carrot Museum, which provides the "most comprehensive history of the carrot anywhere, online." The 150 page website includes information on nutrition, carrot breeding, recipes, trivia - even a Mr. Carrothead game for the kids, and a section on the Carrot in Fine Art.

Why did the former City of Bradford employee and Election specialist launch a Carrot Museum? A gardener, he grows carrots, but credits his daughter with inspiring the website. "In England, there's masses of weird museums - playing card museums, a toilet seat museum," Stolarczyk says. "Zany?" But when he told his daughter that there was probably a museum for everything, she said, "Not
carrots!"

The site, www.carrotmuseum.com, now gets about 100 hits per day, and its curator not only fields two to three questions each week from kids ("How do carrots grow? Why are they orange?"), but has begun to bring his information into the classroom. And although he had no intention of actually collecting carrot memorabilia - "I wanted to collect carrot collectors," he says, like the lady with the carrot tattoos or the Rhode Island woman with a "Carrot Room" - he's ended up with a private collection of about 1,000 items.

Stolarczyk plans to visit other Carrot Festivals around the world including a festival in New Zealand and one in Turkey, later this year, and California's festival next year - but says of Bradford's celebration, "What I liked about this one is it's so local - It's not commercial, just good friendly fun." He plans to add a page on the Bradford CarrotFest to the Carrot Museum. Bradford West Gwillimbury Mayor Frank  Jonkman presented the British visitor with a CarrotFest shirt, and a Carrot Cake.

The weather was fine, the crowds were smiling - but there was a complaint There just weren't enough carrots in CarrotFest.
 

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