Asparagus Meets Poetry During Festival in Empire, Michigan

Small town celebrates spring with annual festival honoring the humble asparagus.

| April 24, 2009

What a hat! One of the top gear found at the Empire (Michigan) Asparagus Festival.

In keeping with tradition, a participant in Michigan's annual Empire Asparagus Parade sports a colorful paper hat garnished with stalks of fresh-picked asparagus. This year's festival is set for May 15-18.

courtesy Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau

Empire, Michigan – After a six-month winter, the arrival of spring can make people do strange things.

How else to explain the literary impulse that comes over residents of this tiny Lake Michigan coastal village every year when they see the first brave spears of spring asparagus pushing up from the sandy earth?

Each May, residents of Empire dress up in asparagus costumes and parade down their short three-block downtown. They hold huge asparagus cook-offs featuring everything from soups and soufflés to casseroles and crepes. They sing, dance, compete in athletic events and consume respectable quantities of beer and wine. But the spotlight event of the two-day Empire Asparagus Festival is the annual “Ode to Asparagus” competition, where local bards outdo each other in paying homage to this beloved vegetable. This year’s festival, the sixth, will be held May 15-16.

Consider, for example, the eloquence of Tom Ulrich, assistant superintendent of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, who won the contest a year or two back:


I stand over the bed and imagine you arising

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