MARQUEE - Sweet Onion Festival to begin on Saturday

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In case there was any doubt about the Walla Walla Sweet Onion's status as the local celebrity crop, the 26th annual festival in its honor this weekend will not only put the community's signature orb at center stage, it will also be on Canadian television.

The two-day community ode to the Sweet will be the backdrop for Food Network Canada show "Glutton for Punishment." Host Bob Blumer will attempt to break two world records as he attempts to peel 200 pounds of "hot" onions in less than an hour and then attempt to eat one such onion in less than 48 seconds.

Local residents will have supporting roles in his effort, helping with production, emceeing, music and more.

"I'm so excited because we've got some great new things," said Kathy Fry, marketing director for the Walla Walla Sweet Onion Marketing Committee, which coordinates the event.

About 40 vendors will line downtown's Main Street for the event. Live music throughout the weekend, a Saturday night street dance, cooking demonstrations, games and contests for the kids and an onion-eating contest will all be part of what Fry refers to as a "celebration" of the onion.

Walla Walla's onion -- dubbed "so sweet you can eat it like an apple" -- has a more than 100-year history in the community.

About 30 growers cultivate the Sweets on about 1,000 acres with an average yield of 650 50-pound units per acre, according to the marketing committee.

The globes are protected by a federal marketing order intended to protect buyers from imposter onions, as well as growers in the legal production area.

The onions are planted in early fall and over winter before restarting growth in early spring. Harvest takes place June through August, which Fry said she anticipates eagerly each year.

She estimates she eats about 25 pounds of Walla Walla Sweets throughout the season.

"I wait nine months for that three-month window," she quipped.

That's what makes a new feature of this year's celebration so exciting. In the last month or so volunteers have helped organize a new cooking demonstration. About five local residents will showcase their favorite Sweet Onion recipes starting at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

The demos will take place under a canopy in front of Coldwell First Banker Realtors. Referred to as "A Salad Slaw-ter," the event will be an opportunity for those interested in learning new recipes. Recipe cards will also be passed out.

The event will also have activities for kids old and young -- onion bowling, onion decorating, onion sack races and the "Bald as an Onion" contest for those with heads round as Sweet globes.

Sweet Onion Festival Schedule of Events


Saturday

  • 7 a.m. -- Sweet Onion 5K Fun Run registration at Third Avenue and Main Street
  • 8 a.m. -- Fun Run begins
  • 9 a.m. -- Daniel Mark Faller on stage
  • 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. -- Funion Games on the courthouse lawn
  • 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. -- Grass Roots of Walla Walla will host "A Salad Slaw-ter," hands-on demonstrations with recipe cards under the canopy at Coldwell Banker First Realtors.
  • Noon -- Beer and wine garden opens
  • 12:15 p.m. -- Steppin' Country Dance Team
  • Noon to 4 p.m. -- Second Annual Sweet Skip
  • 1-4 p.m. -- The Jim Basnight Band
  • 4:15 p.m. -- New Horizons Dance Team
  • Saturday night street dance
  • 5-8 p.m. -- The Johnny NoLand Band
  • 8:30-11:30 p.m. -- The Vaughn Jensen Band


Sunday

  • 9 a.m. -- Daniel Mark Faller
  • 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. -- Funion Games on the courthouse lawn
  • Noon -- Beer and wine garden opens
  • Noon -- Onion Eating Contest
  • "Glutton for Punishment" filming
  • Food Network Canada's Bob Blumer will be filming a fifth season episode as he tries to break two Guinness Book world records. At 12:30 p.m. he will attempt to peel 200 pounds of "hot" onions in less than one hour. At 2 p.m. he will try to eat a "hot" onion in less than 48 seconds.

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