If you’ve spent much time in Indiana in the spring, chances are you’ve heard of “mushroom hunting.” Outside of the Midwest, the expression can be met with a confused look or even a question about psychedelics. Of course mushroom hunting in Indiana usually means one thing: foraging for those delicious honeycombed mushrooms called morels. There’s even a festival in Parke County devoted entirely to the delicacy.

The annualMansfield Village Mushroom Festival will take place this year from April 28–29. Mansfield Village is less than 90 minutes by car from downtown Indianapolis, and is a scenic town known for a gorgeous covered bridge spanning Big Raccoon Creek and its historic roller mill.

The Mansfield Village features a number of mushroom-related events in a scenic setting including a mushroom auction. This is an opportunity to buy or sell morels. According to Anne Driscoll, online editor and vendor relations and events manager at Parke Management, “If you have never seen the mushroom auction, it is extremely entertaining. We invite mushroom hunters to come and auction their mushrooms. Each day at 8am we conduct a random drawing to determine the sale order for that day.”

Clear, zippered bags containing fresh morels are held up by the auctioneer, and visitors bid upwards of $20 per bag. Brad Wallace from Wallace Auction will be the auctioneer again this year. Since the festival relies on the auction as its main attraction, Driscoll encourages any mushroom hunters to participate, “If you are hunting mushrooms, I urge you to bring them to the auction in Mansfield.”

An organized mushroom hunt also takes place at the festival. This is a fun opportunity for those who have never tried out the sport or for anyone who doesn’t have access to woods where the fungi grow. For an $8 registration fee, participants have a chance to win a hand-carved mushroom walking stick for finding the largest or the most mushrooms. (They also have the chance to take home a tasty snack along with some bragging rights should they find some of the coveted morels.)

Participants register between 8 and 10am and then follow an escort vehicle out to a designated area where they will forage for morels. Children are welcome to enter, but anyone under the age of 5 needs to be accompanied by an adult. All contestants must report back by 3pm. In addition to the hunt, there’s also a cash prize offered each day for the largest mushroom found anywhere.

First-timers should be warned: Mushroom hunting isn’t as easy as some might think. The yellow, brown and gray shades of the morels closely match the colors of the forest floor, making for a nice camouflage and a good visual challenge for mushroom hunters. With hard work comes reward, and in the case of morels, that reward is a gourmet, seasonal ingredient that is described as having a nutty flavor. There are unlimited possibilities for preparing morels, ranging from simply frying them in butter to making a gourmet sauce to accompany wild game dishes. Many online sources are available offering recipes for your delicious endeavor.

For those who can’t wait until they get home to eat some, the Mushroom Shack will be serving up fried mushrooms and fried mushroom sandwiches. There are also a number of other vendors onsite selling food, crafts and antiques, and the Mansfield Village Car Show, an event for collector car owners and enthusiasts, complete with mushroom trophy plaques for different categories, will be held on Sunday.

Mansfield Village is located in Parke County, Indiana, around 58 miles west of Indianapolis. The festival will take place April 28 & 29.

· Registration for the mushroom hunt is April 28 & 29, 8am–10am at Fox’s Overlook.

· The mushroom auction will take place throughout the day on April 28 & 29 at the Red Barn.

· The car show will be held April 29 with registration from 8am–noon and music under the Pavilion.

For more information about the festival, visit MansfieldVillage.com/mushroom_festival or call 765.653.4026.

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