EASTHAM — By the time this story goes live, the library’s countdown clock for the Eastham Turnip Festival will reach two days, eight hours, and counting. You can watch the Festival tick closer by the second on the library website.
It’s almost as if the turnip festival, now in its 16th year, were Eastham’s New Year’s Eve. Seemingly everyone in town anxiously awaits it and people turn out for it faithfully, year after year.
The showcase of turnipdom is a one-day affair, held at Nauset High School on Saturday, Nov. 23 from 1 to 4 p.m. And this year being the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, the theme is a nod to that legacy — Rock ’n’ Turnip Roll.
Festival organizers at the library have invited would-be songwriters to enter a song lyric contest. Entrants selected their favorite Woodstock-era tunes and replaced the original song with their own turnip-inspired verses. The winner will be announced at the fest and the Higher Ground String Band will perform the prize-winning tune.
The three hours of turnip fun will be kicked off by the Blessing of the Turnips. Other events include the crowning of this year’s Turnip King and Turnip Queen, a turnip shuck-off, and a turnip weight-guessing contest. Admission is free for all.
A harvest marketplace will fill the gymnasium with locally designed and produced handcrafts, books written by local authors, and locally grown produce for sale. Yes, there will be turnips.
“This is the largest gathering of local vendors on the Outer Cape so it’s a great place to get a head start on holiday shopping,” said organizer Marianne Sinopoli, perhaps thinking more of the artisanal goods than the turnips.
Activities for children include a juggler, face painter, balloon artist, temporary tattoos, make & take crafts, and a Mr. Turnip Head decorating contest. The Turnip Game Zone will be abuzz with turnip bowling and other lawn-sized turnip games.
There’s always plenty to eat at the festival, and just in case there is anyone out there who is not interested in a turnip-infused repast, it’s good to know there are options. New this year is a raw bar featuring Eastham-raised oysters and wild quahogs. Lunch concessions run the gamut from pulled pork to grilled cheese to locally made confections. According to the event organizers, neither vegans nor the gluten-averse will go hungry.
Love these root vegetables or not, the most popular event of the day is the turnip cookoff in which 12 local food establishments vie for top honors by getting creative with turnip fare.
The 2019 entrants are Brine Restaurant, C-Shore Kitchen + Bar, Corner Store, Fairway Restaurant & Pizzeria, Good Eats on 6, Jailhouse Tavern, Karma Foods, Mac’s Seafood, Sam’s Deli, The Local Scoop, The Optimal Kitchen, and Whale Walk Inn.
They’ll make appetizers, entrees, or desserts that the public can sample, free of charge, to inform their People’s Choice Award decisions. But things get judgmental too, with a panel selecting first, second, and third place winners.
A number of enduring specialties have been invented by cooks at the fest. Who could forget the harvest turnip slaw from Corner Store that took first place in 2018, the turnip pulled pork au gratin with turnip cream from Big Dog’s BBQ that won in 2017, or the turnip puff casserole from Mac’s Parties & Provisions that blue-ribboned it in 2016?
Then there are the turnip whoopee pies made by Eastham resident Georgia Hawko. They took the People’s Choice prize in 2015, and just in case you’ve been craving them ever since, we’re including a recipe for them here.
The day serves as a festive kind of open house at the library. There, representatives from Aldrich Astronomical Society will be on hand to demonstrate how to use the library’s telescope, available for library patrons to borrow.
The festival is organized by the Eastham Library, led by Marianne Sinopoli, and sponsored by the Friends of the Eastham Library, Seamen’s Bank, Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, and the Eastham Cultural Council. For more information visit easthamturnipfestival.com.
Because the People Say So
Georgia Hawko’s Turnip Whoopee Pies
Makes 50 small whoopee pies
For the pastries:
3 cups cooked, well drained, and mashed Eastham Turnips
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, combine butter and sugar. Mix in Eastham turnips and eggs; beat well.
- In separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to butter-sugar mixture. Add vanilla and stir well. If mixture is too sticky, add a little more flour.
- Drop by teaspoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 15 minutes. Let cool completely before filling with the recipe below or with your favorite cream cheese frosting.
For the filling:
1 cup milk
4 Tbsp. flour
½ cup butter (1 stick)
½ vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Cook milk and flour until thick; set aside to cool. In a large bowl combine butter and Crisco and beat 4 minutes. Add sugar and beat another 4 minutes. Add milk-flour mixture and vanilla and beat until thick. Once pastries have cooled, spread filling over the flat side of one, then top with another.