Come Celebrate 150 Years of Floating Zucchinis Down Baxter Creek

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Photo supplied. As can be seen here, the oft-misrepresented painting of the “Fathers of Confederation” is clearly the first meeting of the Millbrook Zucchini Test Bake Ovens Organizing Committee, held in the gathering room of the old Old Millbrook School on July 25, 1867. Through the windows one can identify downtown Millbrook as it was then, along with the millpond.

Excitement is building for the 150th Annual Zucchini Festival, to be held Sunday, September 10 in downtown Millbrook, next to the mill on the sunny shores of Baxter Creek. Festivities begin at 12:30 and run until 4:00 p.m., or until the last zucchini has been launched from the Giant Zucchini Slingshot.

There are some nay sayers who question the festival’s claim for having been held uninterrupted for the past 150 years. Ebenezer Azerkelbie, a longtime resident, says he distinctly remembers the first festival being held a mere 20 years ago, in 1997, in support of an earlier incarnation of the Farmers’ Market. “It was wacky but a real good event,” he says. “They had zucchini carving, boat races, a zucchini caber toss. They even had a bagpiper, darn it! Why the Zucchini Test Bake Oven Organizing Committee feels they need to rewrite history and claim 150 years of zucchini heritage in this community is beyond me. Twenty years isn’t good enough???”

Festival organizers, however, stay firm in their assertion that zucchinis have been feted here in Millbrook for the past century and an half. A visit to their website shows they have gone to great lengths to dig up the archival evidence that proves that Millbrookians have been, carving, floating, flinging, serenading, and occasionally actually making something tasty out of these colossal squash, and that the festival simply honours that well-established and long running relationship.

But regardless of whether you fall in the “Twenty years isn’t good enough???” or “Really, 150 years, I had no idea!” camp, you are encouraged to bring the family down for a day of zucchini-inspired frivolity. Remember that the carving table opens at 12:30 but will close at 1:45 p.m. sharp, to allow everyone time to enjoy the boat races at 2:00 p.m.

Other events include an open mike stage where you are encouraged to share your zucchini-inspired poetry and songs, and once again everyone is asked (no, begged!) to blow the dust off your favourite zucchini recipes and reach for the gold in this year’s Zucchini Cooking Contest. Remember awards are for best sweet, savoury and junior entries.

There are also prizes for the best-carved and decorated zucchini, with special attention given to entries that celebrate this year’s theme, our shared 150 year zucchini heritage as well as a contest for the biggest zucchini entered at the festival. Visit their website to view some previous winners, but don’t be discouraged. Success depends on whether Joe shows up…

Most excitingly, after the success of last year’s Zukémon Hunt, the festival will feature another low tech surprise activity. Planning around this has been so secretive that even the planners have no idea what they will be doing!

After the boat races stick around for the awards ceremony, followed by the grand finale Giant Slingshot Event where adults and children can feel the cathartic pleasure of flinging zucchinis at hapless targets with a giant 10′ long rubber band.  Throughout the event there will be zucchini bobbing (prizes!!) and face painting. Music for the festival will be performed this year by the terrifically talented group Cellar Door, who you may have seen performing at the Farmer’s Market in Millbrook earlier in August. There will be food available on site, courtesy of the Millbrook Judo Club, and the Old School Family Centre and Mill Committee will also have booths at this year’s festival. If any other community group would like to participate, please contact festival organizers at 705 932-3330.

All events at the festival are free and there will be a pile of zucchinis, donated by the Farmers’ Dell in Campbellcroft available for carving, floating and flinging. For a full list of contest details visit the festival website at https://millbrookzucchinifest.blogspot.ca.

By Bill Slavin

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