BEAVER, W.Va. — Spring ramp festivals in West Virginia could see a leap in attendance in 2023, according to the publisher of one of the state's chief guides to feasts and festivals celebrating traditional food.
Dave Sibray, the publisher of West Virginia Explorer Magazine, says he's expecting the number of people attending the festivals to grow due to increased state population, increased state tourism, and a decline in severe covid infections.
"I'm predicting a boom in spring festivals of all kinds this year," says Sibray, who, over the last decade, has been promoting ramp festivals through the online magazine, which customarily reaches 10,000 daily readers.
"I think we're going to see a dramatic increase in ramp feasts, and maple syrup festivals are also looking good.
Jennifer Smith, who collects information on the festivals for the magazine, says hosts in 2022 were enthusiastic about seeing attendance return to pre-pandemic numbers.
"Everyone was excited to think about people gathering again," Smith said. "During the pandemic, folks missed the ramp feasts and the funding they brought for churches and organizations."
A seasonal staple of Appalachian cuisine, ramps or rampion, a wild leek native to eastern North America, are among the first edible plants to appear in the mountains in spring.
Settlers would gather for ramp feeds, which later became traditional community events. Today, ramps feasts and festivals are often hosted by non-profit organizations as fund-raisers. Churches and volunteer fire departments are customarily sponsors of large dinners.
Some ramp dinners have grown into full-fledged festivals. The Feast of the Ramson at Richwood, West Virginia, will celebrate its 83rd annual ramp festival in 2023.
Most ramp dinners in West Virginia are hosted in March, April, and May.
For more information on upcoming festivals or to submit information on a ramp festival, visit West Virginia Ramp Dinners & Festivals.