Ramp feasts in West Virginia may witness post-peak growth

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Ramp feasts in West Virginia may witness post-peak growth
A mess of ramps cooks during the annual ramp dinner at Helvetia, one of many such events being held across West Virginia.

The worst of the pandemic seemingly over, West Virginia may witness the enthusiastic return of community ramp feasts in spring 2022, according to the publisher of West Virginia Explorer Magazine.

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Celebrations of the wild leek, known regionally as the "ramp," have long been the focus of community gatherings in the Mountain State, where it is among the first edible plant to appear after winter. Ramp-themed dinners often serve as fundraisers for churches and volunteer organizations and vary from small affairs to full-scale festivals.

Most public feasts and festivals were canceled in 2020 as the pandemic swept the U.S., and in 2021 many operated as take-out fundraisers without indoor dining. But now all that seems to have changed.

It appears indoor dining will return, according to magazine publisher David Sibray, and sponsors and attendees both seem excited to gather again.

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"We're answering calls weekly about ramp feasts now, and it looks like we'll see a return to normal and possibly an expansion beyond what was normal before the pandemic," Sibray said.

Jennifer Smith, who's editing the 2022 guide, to be published March 1, says sponsors with whom she's spoken seem enthusiastic.

Editor David Sibray climbs a boulder in the New River Gorge in southern West Virginia.
Editor David Sibray climbs a boulder 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 could even see an increase in attendance, coincident with the state's newfound popularity as a vacation destination.

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"The pandemic inspired many Americans to look to West Virginia as a preferred destination for outdoor-recreation vacations and for residency," he said. "As a real estate agent as well as a publisher, I can testify to the revolutionary interest in visiting and moving to the Mountain State."

Hosted primarily in April and early May, dinner menus typically feature ramps served raw and cooked, accompanied by ham, eggs, potatoes, and desserts. Some menus feature gourmet recipes.

The online guide to West Virginia travel has published a Guide to Ramp Events each March 1 for the eight years, but the staff is updating and advertising the guide this week.

Sibray said that while some magazine readers have remarked on the potential impact of the annual ramp harvest, he's observed that harvesters are careful about sustaining their crops.

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"These folks have been harvesting ramps for years, and I'm sure they know what they're doing. They're not about to over-harvest one of their patches and spoil upcoming harvests," he said.

Listings in the guide for non-profit organizations are free, and submissions may be made by calling 304-575-7390 or by emailing editor@wvexplorer.com or by visiting "Tell us about your West Virginia ramp feast."

For-profit businesses that would like to advertise to the ramp audience should email jennifer.smith@wvexplorer.com

Visit: Guide to Ramp Feasts and Festivals.

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