Annual Pawpaw Festival To Feature New Event

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The annual Ohio Pawpaw Festival will roll out a new event — the Pawpaw Gauntlet Race — to mark the festival’s 15th year celebrating Ohio’s native fruit.

The Ohio Pawpaw Festival, which started off as a small community event to honor a native tree, will be held at Lake Snowden in Albany Sept. 13-15.

One of the biggest events in Athens County, the festival is packed with three days of pawpaws, sustainability workshops, contests, live music, art and fun for the whole family.

Chris Chmiel and his wife Michelle Gorman — owners of Integration Acres in Albany — started the festival. Chmiel said the event started as a one-day celebration of the native fruit at the Albany Fairgrounds with a few hundred guests. The event was moved to Lake Snowden in its third year, which was a good move, Chmiel said.

According to Chmiel, the festival has been able to grow to the three-day extravaganza it is today thanks to a great team of organizers.

“Now it’s crazy big,” he said. “We couldn’t function without this great team. I think we’ve built a nice community event.”

Last year’s Ohio Pawpaw Festival saw an attendance of nearly 8,000 people.

While Chmiel said he’s happy the festival has flourished, he said he hopes to keep the festival at a manageable size as to not outgrow the Lake Snowden location.

“Bigger isn’t always better,” he said.

To help alleviate some of the parking and traffic congestion on the Saturday of the event, the festival will expand its free shuttle services to include transportation to and from the Albany Fairgrounds. Saturday visitors are encouraged to park at the Albany Fairgrounds and take the shuttle to the festival.

There will also be a free shuttle for students and community members throughout the entire weekend from Baker University Center on the Ohio University campus.

New this year will be the Pawpaw Gauntlet Obstacle Course, which is a course designed to be physically challenging but accessible to athletes of all skill levels. A two-person team will sprint through a maze of challenging obstacles to test strength, agility, intellect, determination and cooperative skills. The race features over 20 obstacles in less than one mile, including a giant wall climb/slide, hay bale pyramid, swings, balance logs, mud runs, crawls and climbs, slips and slides, team challenges, skill games and more.

The course will be open during daylight festival hours for practice. There will be a youth race (ages 17 and under) on Saturday, Sept. 14, from 2-4 p.m.; a 40 and over race on Sunday, Sept. 15, from 12-1 p.m. and an 18-39 age group race on Sept. 15 at 1 p.m.

The festival will also partner with Rural Action’s Appalachian Ohio Zero Waste Initiative to take recycling and composting efforts to the next level — striving for no waste to be sent to the landfill.

Also new this year will be Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga classes offered by Inhale Yoga.

The First Annual Pawpaw Golf Open will be held at the Elm Golf Course just outside of Athens on Sept. 14 at 2:30 p.m. The nine-hole tournament costs $25 and benefits the Pawpaw Foundation. In addition to the new events scheduled for this year’s festival, annual favorites such as the Best Pawpaw Competition, Pawpaw Cook-off and Pawpaw Eating Contest will be held throughout the weekend.

At the Pawpaw Tent, visitors can sample select varieties and purchase fruit from the North American Pawpaw Growers Association. Chmiel said that pawpaws should be ripe for the festival and there should be plenty of fruit for attendees.

There will also be arts and crafts vendors, live music, food vendors (all featuring pawpaw dishes), atlatl throwing, horse-drawn wagon rides, the Pawpaw Double Nickel Bicycle Ride, Native American demonstrations by the East of the River Shawnee Tribe and a beer garden featuring six Ohio microbreweries with different styles of pawpaw beer.

Paws at the Pawpaw will be held adjacent to the festival grounds all weekend and is coordinated by Friends of the Shelter Dogs. Admission is $5 per dog per day or $10 per dog for the entire weekend. There will be all kinds of activities for canines including dog sitting, demonstrations and competitions.

Dogs are not permitted inside the regular festival area (except service dogs).

The Ohio Pawpaw Festival will take place from 4 p.m. to midnight on Sept. 13; 10 a.m. to midnight on Sept. 14; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 15. Admission is $10 per day or $20 for a weekend pass. Children 12 and under are admitted free. Camping at Lake Snowden is also available.

For a full schedule of events, visit