Sunday, July 19, 2009

# 9 Bagel Festival - Mattoon, IL - July 18, 2009

# 9 Bagel Festival - Mattoon, IL - July 18, 2009

My life as a food festival blogger hasn't been very glamorous as of yet, and I still have to stand in line at these events like everyone else. This is the line stretching out for the free bagel breakfast at the Bagel Festival.

Here is the what I received for my "breakfast". A thawed out plain Lender's Bagel with mixed fruit jelly. The breakfast ended at 10 am and I arrived about 9:30. Unfortunately the bagel professionals knew to get there at 6 am to get a larger variety. Apparently there were chocolate chip, strawberry, and cinnamon bagels available earlier. I heard there was even some cream cheese around at some point that morning.

Having been somewhat disappointed by the bagel breakfast, I started to re-focus my hopes towards the parade. This was by far the largest parade I've seen this year as it lasted over an hour and a half. For some reason the parade had a pirate theme, and to the right you are looking at quite possibly the only bagel cannon in existence.

Again there wasn't a lot of variety when it came to vendors selling the themed ingredient. In fact, this bagel pizza was the only themed food item available I could find. It was solid and tasted good, but it was a basic bagel with sauce and cheese. I had hoped for more, maybe next year I'll go to these festivals as a vendor with different food recipes for each event. I think I could make some money selling steamed bagel sandwiches a la Bagel and Deli in Oxford style here (anyone who went to Miami of Ohio would understand).

Finally I introduce the Fudge Puppy. Although there was nothing exciting that was bagel related, I did find this treat fairly innovative. It is a "Belgian Waffle" dipped in chocolate and topped with whipped cream, sprinkles, and strawberries. Ok I got upsold on the strawberries, but why not go all the way with this heart attack/dentist's gold on a stick? It tasted like I was 6 years old again.

Video of the week. I thought it was safe to assume that the local High School band would march at these festival parades. Yet, I was wrong at every parade I've been to this summer until I made it to Mattoon. I love marching bands, and especially the drum line. I hope you enjoy a drum line solo from Mattoon High School as much as I did. (Also look for the little kid with a drum bigger than him at the end).

This festival did not start off with the bang that I had hoped for at the bagel breakfast. It was more like that Wah-Wah-Wah horn sound they make when a cartoon character is let down. I just expected more than a plain bagel with mixed fruit jelly. The problem was there was no limit on how many bagels each person took. In fact the bagel fest veterans brought their own plastic bags in order to help carry their loot. I have a feeling that the more uncommon bagels were swooped up by 7 am, and there was no way I was waking up at 4:30 am to drive for bagels.

So why Mattoon, IL for bagels? Apparently it all goes back to your local supermarkets preffered frozen bagel purveyor, Lender's Bagels. Harry Lender began his bagel empire back in 1927 in New Haven, CN. I'm not sure if I need to document the history of the bagel or its rise to one of the most popular breakfast items, but if you're a food history buff then click here to learn way more than you want. In 1962 Lender's introduced the first frozen bagel which enabled shipping his product further and making more varieties available across the country. By 1986 Lender's built its largest manufacturing plant in Mattoon, IL. It currently employs almost 300 people, and they produce everything from bagels to french toast sticks.

The parade was a definite spectacle at this festival, and by far the longest one I've witnessed this summer. I think every business, politician and social group in town participated in the parade. I think the most innovative entry I saw was a woman who owned a clothing store actually pushed a shopping rack of clothes the entire route. How do you know when a parade is over? When the horses come by the parade is over (hopefully I don't need to explain why there is no one behind the horses).

Although I was disappointed by the lack of bagels at the bagel fest, it was still a fun festival and much larger than I had expected. The professional Carnival folks were all over this festival, and they set up one of the most impressive amusement park I've seen. From spinning apples to roller coasters, it was all there. For any parents out there, this was a great family event which many families took advantage of. Food wise the fudge puppy was definitely the highlight. Here's another rule, if it's on a stick it is good.

I'll leave you with this thought,
"As you travel through life, brother...whatever your goal...keep your eye on the bagel, and not on the hole!" And maybe a wiener dog wrapped in a bagel figurine for purchase here.


  1. Another excellent post. What a missed opportunity to not have more than one or two themed foods at these festivals. You really are on to something. Now I just need one of those fudge puppies, which beats a bagel any day. That really is a good concoction. This link happened to be one of the MSN featured links today so you can get other ideas as a sort of checklist of items you ened to enjoy:

  2. I'll have to admit the fried coca cola and krispy kreme chicken sandwich sound really exciting. Interestingly enough I've seen fried twinkies at almost every festival so far. I'm hoping to sell some food themed items next year as a vendor. Thanks for your support, and yes the fudge puppy was glorious.