Stink fest

Terrie McElory cuts up a piece of horseradish while a Stink Fest attendee waits for her first time to grind horseradish. Horseradish tasting and grinding were the favorites among the crowds.

FREMONT — At Saturday’s second annual Stink Fest, a person asked Howard Sieren, “Why is this called Stink Fest?” He pointed at the horseradish and said, “Smell this.”

Some were appalled by the smell, but many seemed thrilled to be at a festival dedicated to horseradish. For horseradish lovers and haters, it was a festival that brought them together to not only celebrate horseradish, but chicken bingo, fellowship, music, the Fremont flip auction and many others.

Jackie Perkins, one of the organizers of the event, said she and other residents wanted to have a horseradish festival because of the uniqueness of such a festival and to expose others to horseradish.

“Nobody else has one,” Perkins said. “There’s only two in the United States, and only one in Iowa. We had access to horseradish, and a lot of people have never seen it and they didn’t know what it was. It just catches your attention; it’s an educational sight for the senses.”

Attendees didn’t have to pay for horseradish appetizers or pay to have a good time, they just did.

One little girl was excited to grind horseradish and play games, while the adults seemed thrilled at trying the different dishes.

Judy Schweitzer got to try the horseradish dishes and got her hands on horseradish dill pickles. She enjoyed last year’s festival and wanted to return.

“Jackie Perkins is the prime person that initiates this,” Schweitzer said. “We always told her that we would come back again because we enjoyed it. There’s just a lot of different activities that’s fun to see and fun to watch.”

For Brandee Roquet, coming to Stink Fest didn’t require much thought as she grew up eating horseradish and said it was one of her favorite dishes. Like Schweitzer, Roquet not only came to try the horseradish appetizers but also for the community as well.

“It’s a cute little festival and see all the new people and local people,” Roquet said. “It’s a fun little community thing that basically doesn’t cost you anything. Horseradish is good, all the wonderful little dishes they come up with. It’s interesting to go look at and try and get the recipes for.”

While fun and celebrating horseradish was at the center, Melissa Gingrich came for a different purpose. She came on behalf of Kirkville Community Church to sell cookies in order to raise $6,000 for a friend in need of a lung transplant.

“Everybody in the community knows Steve,” Gingrich said. “The community has come together to support him and help with this endeavor.”

While Gingrich did come to get support for her friend, she also came for the community. “We love each other so much in this town,” she said, “and we just want people to come in and see what a great town we have. This is something someone can come to and spend time with us as a community.”

Many did bond by tasting horseradish and listening to music. Many took the time to even tell Susan Dinsmore and Brenda Swearingen, who were in charge of horseradish tasting, their thoughts on the dishes.

“I like the people coming in,” Swearingen, “[saying] ‘hey we love this appetizer, this.’ I’m a people person, that’s what I like about it.”

Swearingen and Dinsmore prepared nine different horseradish appetizers from horseradish beef salad to salsa with horseradish.

For Swearingen and Dinsmore, positive reactions made it worthwhile for them to get up on a Saturday to help set up and even think ahead to next year’s festival.

“We said last year, ‘If this goes well, we might consider doing it again,’” Swearingen said. “Even with the weather, we had a good turnout and said, ‘We’ll probably do it again.’ It will probably be a third annual Stink Fest.”

“We’re just glad for the community support,” Dinsmore said, “and for the other communities around that come and support us because we initially started this not as a money-maker thing, we were trying to get something fun to bring the people within the community together that would hit all age groups.”

“I hope it continues to grow,” Swearingen said. “I hope the people that come today tell other people, ‘Oh my gosh, I went to the Stink Festival and it was great — you got to go next year.’”

People not only got to taste horseradish, but to grind as well. Terrie McElroy was in charge of teaching others to grind horseradish. McElroy herself only learned how to grind on that same day, but still enjoyed her time because she saw the fun others had.

“It’s great to see people I don’t recognize,” she said, “get people from surrounding areas coming and enjoying it. It’s not supposed to be about our selfish wants and needs; it should be about what makes others happy and makes them smile and have a good day.”

Many left the day, sporting their black “Stink Fest” shirts and the smell of horseradish that didn’t leave their breaths.

Chiara Romero can be reached at

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