BEAVER, W.Va. — Spring ramp festivals are drawing more attention than ever, thanks to a renewed interest in West Virginia and Appalachia, says the publisher of West Virginia Explorer Magazine, one of the Mountain State's chief guide to the feasts.
Ramp festivals witnessed a leap in attendance in 2023, according to David Sibray, who says he's expecting the number of people attending the festivals to grow due to increased interest in the state as a destination for vacations and residency.
"Thanks to the post-COVID interest in an escape to West Virginia, the ability of local organizations to profit from ramp dinners and all-out feasts is growing," Sibray says.
"People are moving to West Virginia in numbers we've not seen in more than a century, and they're vacationing here with record-breaking frequency."
Sibray said the trend for those not directly impacted by tourism and the housing market is most noticeable in coverage by global magazines, which have been reporting on the state as a vacation destination.
This designation follows a series of recent significant announcements by Forbes Advisor, Thrillist, Condé Nast Traveler, Outside Magazine, Lonely Planet, TIME, USA Today, and Frommer’s that together rank West Virginia as a leading global destination for travel.
Jennifer Smith, who collects information on the festivals for the Beckley-based magazine, says hosts in 2023 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 84th annual ramp festival in 2024.
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.
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