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Singing the praises of the pasty

By DAN ROBLEE

droblee@mininggazette.com

CALUMET – With kids’ games, a parade, a horseshoe tournament and music, there was plenty to do at the 11th annual PastyFest in Calumet on Saturday. But eventually, all that fun – and the smell from the vendor booths – made stomachs start to rumble. At that point, only one meal would do, that same flaky-crusted concoction of meat, potatoes and rutabaga that fed generations of Copper Country miners and continues to be the region’s signature dish.

“I had a pasty. It was good,” said Calumet’s Dave McKinstry, who looked confident as he got ready to pitch some shoes in the PastyFest horseshoe tournament.

Dollar Bay’s Brad Barnett got to try three different pasties, none like any he’d eaten before, as one of the judges in the non-traditional category of the pasty bake-off. One had a southwest flair, with rice and beans, he said, another was a breakfast pasty with bacon and eggs. His final choice “was kind of a pot roast pasty,” he said.

Barnett wasn’t allowed to reveal his favorite until winners were announced, but said that “each one was very unique and creative, and they all tasted great.”

Those pasties may stray a bit from expectations, but they may be just the next step in the pasty’s evolution as a food that represents all the Keweenaw’s melting-pot residents.

Laura Smyth, chair of promotions for PastyFest organizers Main Street Calumet, noted that the festival’s walking pasty mascot is named Toivo, a Finnish name that gets it some good-natured ribbing from local Cornish residents, whose ancestors brought the first pasties to the Copper Country.

“Up here it’s an icon for a lot of our cultural identities,” Smyth said.

Smyth said Lindell Chocolate Shoppe of Lake Linden joined the festival as a pasty vendor this year, and a vendor from Chicago actually considered attending before choosing a food festival that draws hundreds of thousands there. PastyFest might not be able to match those numbers, Smyth said, but it did have more vendors than ever this year and strong turnout from the public.

She said there were fewer entries than normal in the bake-off this year, however, with none in the traditional Cornish category. The bake-off winners were Connie’s Kitchen of Calumet in the Traditional Commercial category, Daniel and Marsha Klein in the Traditional Individual category, and Tim Bies of the Michigan House Restaurant in the Non-Traditional category.

Other festival awards went to retiring Village of Calumet controller Sue Dana, the Rita Finch community service award, and to high school student Jake Steinhoff, whose T-shirt design was chosen for the official 2014 PastyFest T-shirt.

Dana said she enjoyed riding the Red Jacket Trolley in the PastyFest parade.

“We threw 30 pounds of candy and ran out,” she noted.

The $200 horse shoe tournament ran later than the festival, and the Daily Mining Gazette had not received results as of press time, but tournament organizer George Siiva of Laurium said competition was fierce, by horseshoe standards.

“There’s not a better bunch of guys than horseshoe pitchers,” Siiva said. “Hockey players are always fighting, football players are hitting each other over the head.”

Another later afternoon event was the Star Spangled Banner sing-along, where dozens of residents joined in the national anthem at the Calumet Theater, each receiving a free frozen pasty in recognition of their patriotism.

Finlandia University’s Erin Barnett handled the kids’ games, which included a rutabaga toss, potato relays, a tug of war, sack race, balloon relays and plenty of prizes.

“I liked the tug of war best,” said Hailey Harri, 8, of Calumet. “We won against the grown-ups.”