Love them or hate them - for there's rarely an opinion in between - ramps were the dish of the day at the fifth annual Ramps and Rail Festival Saturday in downtown Elkins.
And Brian Rollins and his fiancee, Becky Dyer, had driven 300 miles to the Town Square near the Elkins Depot Welcome Center to dig in.
Residents of Bellefontaine, Ohio, the couple explained that the Buckeye State's lower elevation doesn't easily lend itself to cultivating the renowned wild onions.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Katie Kuba
Joe Sabatino cooks spostani — ramp hummus and pesto ingredient fried in a flour tortilla — Saturday at the Ramps and Rail Festival. A total of 19 food vendors participated in this year's festival.
"You can't get 'em in Ohio," Rollins said amidst that unmistakable aroma that makes some people's mouths water in anticipation and other people's noses crinkle in disgust.
"We lived right here in Elkins until my eighth grade year, which was the last time I had them, and we've been trying to get back ever since," he added.
The two had arrived early to sample the sweeping selection of delicacies, which ranged from classics like deep-fried ramps, ramp-laden Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and ramp chili to the more daring, experimental dishes such as ramp and shrimp wontons and spostani, which is ramp hummus and pesto ingredients rolled into a soft tortilla shell and deep-fried.
The two even talked one local vendor into allowing them to bring a ramp plant back to their Bellefontaine backyard, where'll secure it in the soil and hope for the best.
"We're going to try to plant it behind our house in Ohio," Rollins said. "It's like taking another little piece of home back with us."
And should the plant not sprout, Dyer said the two will make the trip again in 2014.
"We'll be back next year," she said. "It seems like (the festival) is only getting bigger and cooler."
Ed Griesel, who heads up the Elkins Depot Welcome Center, didn't disagree.
"I'm amazed at the amount of people came early this morning and stayed all day," he said. "I don't know if the number of people here has doubled, but there's definitely been a big increase in attendance over last year."
This year's festival featured two train rides, 19 food vendors and 23 arts and crafts entrants. Musical acts Wish Awake, Appalachian Spirit and Mark Hamrick supplied the day's entertainment.
And while some festivalgoers who came out to sample the fare were sure of their favorites - fried potatoes with ramps topped the list of many - other attendees, like Tucker County Circuit Clerk Donna Bava, were still undecided as they continued to sample condiments such as ramp salt, ramp butter and ramp salsa.
"So far, I like the (ramp) cheeseball," Bava said, "but I haven't been all the way around yet."
The Ramps & Rail Festival, which wrapped up at 5 p.m., was sponsored by the Elkins Depot Welcome Center, West Virginia Division of Culture and History, Randolph County Development Authority, Randolph County Commission and the City of Elkins.
Contact Katie Kuba by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.