The fun fungus among us

Humongous Fungus Festival to feature documentary

CHARLIE’S EMPORIUM OWNER Barbara Luck decorates the store’s front window at 308 Superior Ave. in Crystal Falls for the 30th annual Humongous Fungus Festival. The event runs from Friday to Sunday, featuring many mushroom-themed activities, including the new documentary, “The Humongous Fungus Among Us.” Three screenings are planned at the Crystal Theatre in downtown in Crystal Falls. (Terri Castelaz/Daily News photo)

CRYSTAL FALLS — It was three decades ago when the Armillaria gallica was discovered near Crystal Falls.

The city since has celebrated the world’s largest continuous mushroom by playing host to the Humongous Fungus Festival. The living organism spreads over more than 37 subterranean acres, weighs an estimated 100 tons and is about 1,500 years old.

“What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been” is this year’s festival theme, said Barbara Luck, president of the Crystal Falls Business Association.

The event runs Friday through Sunday, with many special activities planned throughout the area. “There is something for everyone to enjoy this weekend,” Luck said.

New to the festival is the locally filmed documentary, “The Humongous Fungus Among Us,” playing at the Crystal Theatre. Three screening times are planned: 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. No tickets are required for admission, but donations will be accepted at the door to offset use of the theatre space.

Dr. Johann Bruhn, a retired forest pathologist at the University of Missouri at Columbia, is among the scientists interviewed in “The Humongous Fungus Among Us,” a documentary by Tim Warmanen that will be screened at the historic Crystal Theatre during this weekend’s Fungus Fest in Crystal Falls.

After the 7 p.m. showing Saturday, the Crystal Theatre will host a free reception. Film attendees are welcome to meet documentary participants and enjoy complimentary mushroom-themed appetizers. A cash bar with beer and wine will benefit future programming at Crystal Theatre.

The film, which had been in the works since 2013, is a passion project for Chicago-based filmmaker, editor Tim Warmanen, a 2000 Forest Park High School graduate.

The documentary features interviews by the scientists who studied the fungus, Dr. Johann Bruhn, a retired forest pathologist at the University of Missouri at Columbia, and Dr. Jim Anderson and Dr. Myron Smith, biology professors in Canada.

Warmanen also interviewed dozens of residents who embrace the fungus and the Fungus Fest as a unique part of their community. Among those who appear are Crystal Falls historian Gloria Frederickson, Ben Franklin store owners Jeff and Staria Syrjanen, former mayor Dave Sherby, community organizers Paul Schuytema and Leeann Kirkpatrick, and restaurateurs Chet Fabbri and Kerri Logan.

“I’m so excited to be able to shed some light on the Humongous Fungus that has been a curiosity since I was a child. It’s a big part of Crystal Falls history, and I am honored to be able to play the film at Crystal Theatre in my hometown,” Warmanen said.

The city-wide rummages sales will take place Friday and Saturday. “No maps have been printed this year,” Luck said. “We have asked participants to mark their streets for shoppers.” The rummage sales will continue Saturday.

The Harbour House Museum has planned a strawberry social fundraiser from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday. But the cemetery tour set for Sunday has been canceled and will be rescheduled in the fall, Luck said.

The Humongous Fungus Festival Parade will step off at 6 p.m. Saturday down Superior Avenue. Line-up is at 5 p.m at the Forest Park School.

“Everyone is welcome to participate — just show up,” Luck said.

After the parade, the Not Quite Canada band of Marquette will perform from 7 to 10 p.m. in the parking lot at Third Street and Crystal Avenue, behind Crystal Theatre. The concert is free to the public.

Festival-goers also can check out the softball games at Runkle Lake Park, with the women to start at 6:45 p.m. and men at 8 p.m.

On Saturday, a vendor village will set up from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. behind the Crystal Theater, with 23 artists and vendors slated to take part. “Unfortunately the mushroom vendor had to pull out due to lack of staff,” Luck said.

Christ United Methodist women will have their annual pie social from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the church. A variety of pies will be available.

The Chamber Alliance will place buckets of sidewalk chalk throughout the downtown for everyone to show off their art skills.

“It was great last year,” Luck said. “We had someone do some beautiful work on area businesses.”

The annual giant pizza making was put on the back burner this year due to pandemic precautions, Luck noted.

“With all our great restaurants featuring their own mushroom-themed dishes, there are definitely no food challenges,” she said. “We also have several food vendors participating in the fest, including snow cones.”

The Crystal Falls District Community Library will feature special events for Fungus Fest as well. Its second annual outdoor book sale is set for 4 to 7 p.m. Friday. Troy Graham and Colton Ort of Marquette will perform from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Documentary producer Warmanen will be at the library at 2:30 p.m. Saturday for a question-and-answer session after the 1 p.m. showing at the Crystal Theatre.

The film features original music by Warmanen’s fellow Forest Park classmate Phil Sherby while living in Thailand.

The annual mushroom tour will not take place this year, as well as the buckboard tournament listed on the poster.

The Crystal Falls Business Association is working in conjunction with the Chamber Alliance, as they will organize future events, Luck said.

“I encourage everyone to come and see what’s happening,” she said. “I hope to have the same great turnout and vibe as the Bass Festival received — it was great.”

Terri Castelaz can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 241, or tcastelaz@ironmountaindailynews.com.


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