Midwest Morel Fest Returns To Starved Rock Country

Pick Ottawa for the return of a fan-favorite fest

Provided by the Ottawa Visitors Center

Ottawa’s fan-favorite Midwest Morel Fest will make its triumphant return from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 4. The Ottawa Visitors Center will host the full day of morel mushroom-centric activities at the Jordan Block Park (West Main and La Salle streets) in beautiful downtown Ottawa.

Guests will have the opportunity to learn how to identify and hunt for morels, enjoy a vendor market and take home some morels of their own during the famed Morel Market. The fest’s Morel University already is booked up for 2024, but that shouldn’t prevent you from coming down to celebrate all things morel.

Morel University, the centerpiece of the fest, will educate foragers on the basic practices of identifying and successfully harvesting morels. After the educational seminar, the lucky foragers who snagged tickets will be escorted via bus to the specially designated hunting grounds. By removing the competitive hunt from past years, the event is able to focus more on growing future generations of morel hunters through the expanded instructional courses and guided group hunt.

This year, a wide variety of activities will be scheduled throughout the day. Hunt and Morel Market check-in begins at 7:30 a.m. Guests who were lucky enough to snag tickets can learn how to identify and hunt for morels at Morel University. Class runs from 8 to 8:30 a.m. Don’t worry, there’s no homework. Buses depart at 8:45 a.m. for the guided hunt from 9 to 11:30 a.m.; this portion of the fest is fully booked, but interested patrons are encouraged to follow the Ottawa Visitors Center on Facebook for information on future fests.

A Mother’s Day craft will be available at 10 a.m., free while supplies last. Kaedon Conkright will perform from noon to 3 p.m., playing acoustic folk tunes. Awards for exceptional finds during the group hunt will be handed out at 12:30 p.m. The vendor market runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Participating vendors include Say it in Words, BB’s Custom Creations, Vandy’s Candy’s, Color Street (Juliette Sode), Boho Custom Crafts, Tendaji Body Oils, Goods by Gee, Polancic’s, Jeremiah Joes, Front Street Creamery, Plant Witch Brewing Company, Aussem Dogs and more.

If you love morels but aren’t crazy about trouncing through the woods to find them, you’re in luck. The Midwest Morel Fest also includes a Morel Market. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; those who want to sell morels at the market must register and adhere to all Morel Market guidelines.

All morels will be sold in consistent half-pound quantities in resealable plastic storage bags, making this a simple and direct way to get your morel fix. The market will take place in the event tent from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or until the vendors sell out. It will feature morels and half-morels only; no elephant ears, red ear, beefsteak, etc. will be allowed.

Some stipulations for those looking to sell their findings at the market: Package morels by half-pound weight in resealable plastic bags (don’t seal the bags). Bring them in your own cooler; certified experts will inspect all mushrooms prior to sale, with no inspections between 8:30 a.m. and noon. Washed and soaked mushrooms will be rejected for health reasons. Due to public health restrictions, all mushrooms must be sold through the festival market. Anyone discovered selling unregistered, un-inspected product will be escorted from the festival grounds. Tables will be supplied (six tables/12 vendors). There will be a charge of $30 for a 4-foot vendor spot. There’s no pre-registration; call the Ottawa Visitors Center for further details.

For more great activities, such as the highly anticipated return of Kites In Flight (a two-day celebration of all things kites, held at Ottawa’s Central Riverfront Park on May 18 and 19), head to VisitOttawaIL.com and follow the Ottawa Visitors Center on Facebook and Instagram.