West Virginia ramp parties could see growth after peak

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A mess of ramps cooks during the annual ramp dinner at Helvetia, one of many such events held throughout West Virginia.

According to the editor of West Virginia Explorer’s Magazine.

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Celebrations of the forest leek, known locally as “ramp,” has long been the focus of community gatherings in the mountain state, where it is among the first edible plants to appear after winter. Ramp-themed dinners often serve as fundraisers for churches and voluntary organizations and range from small affairs to large-scale festivals.

Most public parties and festivals were canceled in 2020 as the pandemic swept across the United States, and in 2021 many operated as take-out fundraisers with no indoor dining. But now that all seems to have changed.

It looks like indoor dining will return, according to magazine editor David Sibray, and sponsors and attendees both seem excited to get together again.

“We’re now fielding calls about ramp feasts every week, and it looks like we’ll see a return to normalcy and maybe an expansion beyond what was normal before the pandemic,” Sibray said.

Jennifer Smith, who edits the 2022 guide, which will be released on March 1, says sponsors she has spoken with seem enthusiastic.

Editor David Sibray scales a rock in the New River Gorge in southern West Virginia.
Editor David Sibray scales a rock in the New River Gorge in southern West Virginia.

“Organizers are still making decisions about their schedules and menus, but everyone seems excited,” Smith said.

Sibray said he expects festivals to even see an increase in attendance, coinciding with the state’s newfound popularity as a vacation destination.

“The pandemic has inspired many Americans to look to West Virginia as a preferred destination for outdoor recreation vacations and for residency,” he said. “As a realtor and publisher, I can vouch for the groundbreaking interest in visiting and moving to the Mountain State.”

Held mostly in April and early May, dinner menus typically include ramps served raw and cooked, along with ham, eggs, potatoes, and desserts. Some menus offer gourmet recipes.

The West Virginia Travel Online Guide publishes a guide to ramp events on March 1 each year, but staff are updating and announcing the guide this week.

Sibray said that while some magazine readers have pointed out the potential impact of the annual ramp harvest, he observed that pickers are careful to maintain their crops.

“These people have been harvesting ramps for years, and I’m sure they know what they’re doing. They’re not about to over-harvest any of their plots and ruin future harvests,” a- he declared.

Listings in the Guide for Nonprofits are free and submissions can be made by calling 304-575-7390 or emailing [email protected] or visiting “Tell Us About Your ramp feast in West Virginia”.

For-profit companies wishing to advertise to ramp audiences should email [email protected]

Tour: Guide to Ramp Parties and Festivals.


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