Upshur County Library fundraiser dinner celebrating 25 years

TENNERTON — Twenty-five years ago, a dinner marrying the Appalachian delicacy of ramps with raising funds for the local library was cooked up.

Dale Hawkins, co-owner of Fish Hawk Acres, can’t remember exactly how it happened but he or then-director Beth Nicholson approached each other with the idea of a ramp fundraiser for the Upshur County Public Library.

Hawkins, then chef at the Bicentennial Inn, said at least the first one was held at the restaurant there but moved to the library sometime after that.

“I continued to do it even after I went to Deer Park,” he said. “I think I did it seven or eight years.”

Then, Hawkins’ career took to Glade Springs and Stonewall Resort. Other chefs stepped in over the years and the fundraiser continued.

But this year comes full circle. Sara Bednarski, Nicholson’s daughter, even works with Hawkins and helped with the original ramp dinner.

“I think it’s a milestone for the library and for us,” he said. “As you move through life, things change, people change, everything changes but it’s neat how we all end up on the same road again.”

The 25th anniversary of the dinner on Friday, April 26 has Hawkins and the culinary crew at Fish Hawk Acres debuting a new menu of culinary delights with plenty of options for the ramp lovers and non-ramp lovers too.

“I think the menu remained fairly similar over the years so we wanted to change it up a little bit,” he said.

This year’s dinner attendees will feast on carved roasted pork loin cutlet with ramp chimichurri and demi (no ramps), oven roasted vegetables and bacon mac and cheese (with and without ramps), fresh artisan greens tossed with charred ramp and champagne vinaigrette and house vinaigrette, along with buttermilk bacon and ramp biscuits and dinner rolls with butter and ramp herb compound butter.

Hawkins said ramps are wild leeks from the onion family.

“I think it’s a tradition in Appalachia that people have their spring cleanse with ramps,” he said.

So, what is Hawkins looking forward to on the menu?

“Who doesn’t love mac and cheese?” Hawkins asked. “I’m also looking forward to doing the roast pork loin with the ramp chimichero.

“Even if you don’t like ramps, you can still show up and support the library,” he said.

And there’s always dessert. This year’s choices include rustic apple pie with freshly whipped cream and a strawberry and rhubarb crisp.

Library director Paul Norko will experience his second ramp fundraiser dinner Friday and sees it as a way to broaden the community’s perception of the library.

“This brings in people who have never come into the library,” he said. “Maybe they will see what a nice library it is and come back.”

Each year, the funds raised from the dinner go to improvements at the library as well to the library’s general fund for new materials and supplies.

It’s the library’s only fundraiser of the year, according to Norko.

Since the beginning of the fundraiser, the library has had plans to expand its limited parking and work continues on that project. Some funds from the dinner will likely go to that project.

When finished, the lot will have about 37 spaces including three handicapped parking spaces.

“We still need funds even above what we are making from the ramp dinner to finish the entire project,” he said.

The Friends of the Library also plan to help with the cost of a new sign which will improve sight lines getting back onto Route 20, according to Norko. The Friends of the Library are doing a basket raffle and the baskets can be viewed at the library.

Other funds from this year’s dinner will go towards a much-needed wifi upgrade.

“We are currently capped at 5 mbps,” he said. “If you go to any broadband company at home you are going to get at least 30. But that is 5 mbps for every computer in the building, every device in the building, staff and public. It gets a little slow and we can’t demonstrate e-books very well on 5 mbps.”

Besides the staff and patrons on site, about 20 people a day bring their own devices into the library and use the wifi.

Advance reservations were due April 19 but contact 304-473-4219 ext. 10 or 14 for more information. Tickets are $25 a person and $12.50 for children under 12. Tickets are not available at the door for the dinner which runs from 5-8 p.m.

Business sponsorships are still available.

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