So I’ve been trying to make a point of visiting more places near me– and remembering to take some damn pictures. In early May, I was able to attend a Ramp Festival in Dunbar, PA. Ramps are those delicious spring onions and are the reason for Ramp Festivals that seem to pop up all over Appalachia in the early-mid spring. They are tangy, a little spicy, and have a nice kick when eaten raw. They kind of taste like a mix between a scallion and garlic. When they’re harvested (but not to the point of over-harvesting), it really means that winter is over, and spring is on the way.
It’s also another reason for people to come together and try out new ramp dishes and get together and have a good time. Some of my favorite ramp dishes I recently tried in the small town of Dunbar, PA were ramp chutney, ramp and horseradish cream dip, and of course, sauteed ramps. It was a little damp and a little chilly, but that didn’t keep the locals (and not so locals) away from the festivities.
I can’t say I’d ever been to Dunbar before, it’s just a little way outside of Connellsville, which I have been to a couple of times. It’s your typical older, rural Pennsylvania village. Instead of coal as its major industry, this town was one of the largest producers of coke (an essential ingredient of steel production) throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. It was quaint and very friendly, and we had a good time at the festival.
Before it began, we took a peak into the Dunbar Historical Society’s building, just to see what was there. Was definitely pleasantly surprised and glad I let my inner history nerd detour us for 20 minutes. They had all kinds of local history exhibits, both of recent history and much further in the past. I love looking at those historical objects and thinking of the people that owned them, or wore them.
An interesting addition to the historical society’s rooms is the Suzanne Pascal Annex, which tells the story of the artist who wanted to sculpt with glass. She came to Dunbar in 1961 after the PA Wire Glass Co. had been shut down to collect glass for sculpting. Dunbar had been at the center of not only the coke industry, but the glass industry as well. She left with all the glass she needed and went on to have a successful career. The room documents her work and is even home to her most famous, “The Seated Torso” which is cut from a single piece of glass. (And was recently shipped back to Dunbar after Donald Trump bought the estate where it resided.)
It’s stunning to look at, and I was so happy it made it’s way back to this little town. For being such a small town, there was a lot that happened in Dunbar. Like all towns who lost their industries, it seems to be a shell of its former self. But the people were still so friendly and eager to chat with us.
So both the Leek Festival and the historical society were fun and interesting. There was only one thing left to do, and that was grab some beers at the Rockwood Legion to complete our outing in rural Western PA.