FLAG POND — Things are typically quiet around the old Flag Pond School, but the school’s grounds will soon be teeming with masses of hungry folks looking to get a plateful of fried potatoes and wild leeks.
The 28th annual Flag Pond Ramp Festival will be held Saturday at the old Flag Pond School. The event, which is sponsored by the Flag Pond Ruritan Club, will run from around 11 a.m. to about 6 p.m.
While the festival has experienced growth over the years in terms of its attendance, its main menu has remained consistent. For $7, attendees can purchase a dish that includes fried ramps and potatoes, bacon, soup beans, cole slaw, cornbread, a drink and a dessert.
For first-time festival-goers interested in trying some, Flag Pond Ruritan Club President Richard Waldrop said the flavor of the ramps most closely resembles that of an onion mixed with garlic.
“It’s just a unique flavor, it just flavors everything,” he said.
Organizers realize that ramps may not be for everyone, so other meals, such as hot dogs, hamburgers and nachos, will be available for purchase. Waldrop said food will be served beginning at noon. He also said the event will feature entertainment throughout the day, including dancing and musical performances by Jason Tilson, East Tennessee State University students and the Spivey Mountain Boys.
Waldrop also said the ramp eating contest will again be held.
Admission to the festival is free, but donations for parking will be accepted.
Preparation for the festival, which has traditionally taken place on the second Saturday in May, begins about three months in advance, Waldrop said. Approximately 1,000 pounds of potatoes, 90 pounds of soup beans, 200 pounds of cabbage for the cole slaw, 100 pounds of cornmeal and 400 pounds of bacon are purchased to prepare the ramp dinner.
As the festival approaches, members of the Ruritan Club and their families take to the surrounding mountains to harvest the ramps growing in the wild. Picking began last Thursday and, by that evening, around 60 pounds of ramps had been collected. Boxfuls of the wild leeks were then brought to the old Flag Pond School last Thursday for cleaning.
Harvesting and cleaning will likely to take place every day up to the festival, as Waldrop said “lots” of ramps will be needed for the event. He said around 800 plates of fried ramps and potatoes were served last year, and around 1,000 to 1,500 people attended the Ramp Festival.
While preparation can be arduous, Waldrop said he enjoys it and that the festival serves as a community gathering of sorts.
“It’s a lot of work and you get aggravated, but it’s the only thing we have in our community for the community, really, this and the Fourth of July,” he said.
To get to the Ramp Festival grounds, take Exit 50 off Interstate 26. Turn left at the stop sign and then right at the next stop sign. The old Flag Pond School will be on the right.