National Asparagus Festival to celebrate 50th year

May 3, 2023

2022 Asparagus Queen Grace Huffman (left) and First Runner-Up Chelsi Walicki in the Joan Glover NAF Royale Parade.

National Asparagus Festival to celebrate 50th year

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor

HART — The unique and fun-filled National Asparagus Festival that draws thousands of people hits a milestone as it celebrates its 50th year.

The festival is rooted in Oceana County, which is the top producer of asparagus in Michigan, and Michigan is the leading producer in the country. So, Oceana holds the title of the “The Asparagus Capital of the US.” 

It is a huge industry in the rural county. On average, Oceana County accounts for 80 percent of Michigan’s asparagus production, yielding approximately 15 million pounds annually.

The vegetable’s popularity continues to grow as a nutritious and eye-catching side dish.

The asparagus season typically runs from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day, and the festival takes place each year in mid June during the peak of production. A highlight of the quirky festival is the crowning of the Asparagus queen, formerly Mrs. Asparagus. The title was changed 10 years ago to include single contestants.

NAF Board President Michele Amstutz got her start with the festival 15 years ago when she was crowned “Mrs. Asparagus.” Amstutz is in her second year as president and has been on the board since 2008. “During my reign, I became a board member,” she said.

“Back 50 years ago, I think it started more as a rural ‘let’s celebrate asparagus’ event. It’s grown from this small town festival each year. It’s changed quite a bit over 50 years, but really it started with farmers wanting to share their product, and asparagus wasn’t as popular as a vegetable back then. So it was a way to shine a light on how great it is.”

Workers pick asparagus in a field outside of Hart.
– OCP file photo

This year’s festival runs June 9-11 with Saturday, June 10, as the main day. Kids’ activities at the Ladder Community Center in Shelby Friday, June 9, kick off the event. A Fly-in Breakfast at the Oceana County Airport on Baseline Road is set for Sunday morning, June 11. The Ryan Walsworth Spear-It 5K Run/Walk in

NAF Board President Michele Amstutz

Silver Lake begins at 9 a.m. Saturday. The Taste of Asparagus Food Show takes place in the Hart Historic District. Shuttles from downtown will transport those who don’t want to walk to the food show. Artists and crafters will have their wares for sale

The City of Hart displays signs promoting the festival.

on the courthouse lawn Saturday during the arts and crafts fair. The Shelby High School Football Team hosts kids’ events during the festival Saturday. 

The popular Joan Glover Royale Parade begins in Hart at 2 p.m. This year, the City of Hart is hosting an after-hours party at the Hart Commons following the parade which will likely include the unveiling of Hart’s the gigantic tin man. The 2023 Asparagus Queen — who is crowned the weekend prior to the festival — will help unveil the tin man.

The beloved Scottville Clown Band is slated to perform in the parade and during the after-hours party, followed by two other band performances and then fireworks over Hart Lake. The city has displayed light pole banner signs throughout downtown promoting this year’s festival. 

Hart’s social district allows for the consumption of to-go alcoholic beverages within the boundaries and rules. Thus, eliminating the need for a beer tent, which has been provided during previous years.

There is one other asparagus festival in Michigan, the Empire Asparagus Festival, which takes place the

Hart Mayor Vicki Platt, the 2017 Asparagus Queen, participates in the 2022 parade.

weekend before NAF. The only other festival in the US celebrating the green vegetable is the San Joaquin Asparagus Festival, which held its 37th annual event last month in Stockton, California.

Get in the ‘spear-it’ and join the fun celebrating Oceana County’s favorite vegetable.

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