Get a little nutty: Festival adds fun run, Love Bomb Go Go Marching Band

December 2013 Posted in Arts, Culture & History
Sr. Terry Hall debuted the Benedictine Sisters’ Holy Hazelnut Monastery Mustard at last year’s Nut Fest.

Sr. Terry Hall debuted the Benedictine Sisters’ Holy Hazelnut Monastery Mustard at last year’s Nut Fest.

By Steve Ritchie 

After a successful debut in 2012 the Hazelnut Festival – A German Holiday Market is back for a second appearance at the Mount Angel Festhalle on Dec. 7-8.

Co-Chair Maureen Ernst said the 2013 version of the Hazelnut Festival will be bigger and better than the first, citing more entertainment, more vendors, authentic German Christmas gift items from Christkindlemarkets, and a new 5K fun run – “Run for Your Nuts” – which is probably the only road run offering a bag of nuts for each finisher. And Santa Claus will be on hand to listen to children’s wishes on both days.

“We’re guess-timating that we had close to 3,000 people there last year,” Ernst said. “It exceeded our expectations many times over. We were thrilled.”

Vendors were happy, too. Nearly all have signed on for this year. Sr. Terry Hall, who debuted her Holy Hazelnut flavor of the Sisters’ Monastery Mustard at the festival last year, said, “It was great. A wonderful event, actually, with lots of nice things to buy and so many friendly people to visit with.”

Mount Angel Hazelnut Festival
Dec. 7, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Dec. 8, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Mount Angel Festhalle, 500 S. Wilco Hwy
Admission: $5, under 12 free
Run for Your Nuts, 5K 10 a.m. Dec. 7
Check in at 9 a.m.

Noting that the first year produced “a nice profit,” Ernst said that the proceeds support Mount Angel Chamber of Commerce projects, including the Fourth of July fireworks show and the flower baskets around town.

Missing from this year’s festival, though, will be the presence of Orville Roth, who Ernst said was instrumental in last year’s success. Roth’s Market was not only a sponsor and a promoter of the Hazelnut Festival – and will be again this year – but Orville also gave organizers “lots of great advice” on how to market the event.

“Gosh, we’re going to miss him,” Ernst said. “He was there both days last year. He was like a rock star. People loved visiting with him.”

Ernst is excited about this year’s beefed-up entertainment lineup at the festival. “Our entertainment this year is just a hoot,” Ernst said. “Kowboy Ken is a little bit of Gene Autry, and has a wonderful voice like Johnny Cash. The Lovebomb Go Go Marching Band is a quirky, nutty band that will raise a few eyebrows in Mount Angel and is a lot of fun. The Uke-Dee-Do Ukulele Group is a group of seniors from Senior Estates. I’ve heard them and they are very good. The Kennedy Jazz Band will wrap things up on Sunday.”

“We want people to circulate among all the local markets – shopping local is a great idea – and then when people are hungry they can get a nice meal at one of our fine local restaurants. Last year, every single one of our local restaurants reported being busy all day long,” Ernst said.

The great debate – Is it hazelnut or filbert? – A history lesson

What’s in a name? Locals of a certain age grew up calling the little, round tasty nuts “filberts,” but now “hazelnuts” seems to be the preferred term.

What gives?

According to the website of the Oregon Hazelnut Marketing Board, “there is no wrong answer” as to which term to use.

Filbert trees are thought to have been introduced by early French settlers in Oregon and “filbert” was derived from St. Philibert.

“Hazelnut,” on the other hand, is an English term and is more recognizable worldwide. The “official” change came in 1981 when the Oregon Filbert Commission switched over to hazelnut.

Though much-maligned by some sun-starved transplants, it turns out that Oregon’s cool, damp, marine climate is actually “perfect” for hazelnuts.

The popular nut blooms and pollinates in mid-February, so it doesn’t like seriously cold climates. Though it pollinates early, it stays dormant for several months and the nut doesn’t begin to form until June. Other countries that grow large amounts of hazelnuts are Turkey, which produces 70 percent of the world’s supply, as well as Germany and France.

The number of acres dedicated to hazelnuts has grown significantly in the Willamette Valley. Whether you are driving the stretch of Highway 214 between Mount Angel and Silverton or along Silverton Road, you are bound to spy trees recently planted. Today, more than 600 hazelnut growers are located in the Willamette Valley – the prime growing region for hazelnuts in the United States.

Kevin Aman, a Wilco Farms agronomist who owns hazelnut orchards, says the historic price for a pound of hazelnuts is $.45-.55, but has increased to a current level of $.90-$1.15 per pound. Growers also are benefitting from new blight-resistant varieties of hazelnut trees developed by Oregon State University, which make the orchard crop less risky. Hazelnut orchards also produce a long time – 80 years or more – adding to the attractiveness for growers.

“The industry is just taking off,” Aman said. “They finally figured out how to market hazelnuts. The biggest market is export and China buys a lot of hazelnuts. It is a treat that they like, and their economy is growing so people have more disposable income for things like hazelnuts.”

According to the Oregon Hazelnut Marketing Board, “about 650 Oregon farm families grow hazelnuts on 29,000 acres.” Aman, who is a co-chair of the Mount Angel Hazelnut Festival, says that the festival “brings hazelnuts more to the public and shows a variety of uses for the domestic market – cooking, candy, healthy treats, … even flavoring for coffee drinks.”

Hazelnuts are a heart-healthy snack, with an excellent source of vitamin E, protein, and fiber. Recent research also shows that hazelnuts are one of the highest natural sources of antioxidants.

Whether you call them hazelnuts or filberts, one thing is for sure – this holiday season you’ll have the opportunity to try them in a variety of forms at the Mount Angel Hazelnut Festival.

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