Sure, it may sound unconventional, a town falling in love with a root vegetable, but then how could they resist? A veggie that can be eaten, dressed and used as a bowling ball is just too good to be true. Turnip enthusiasts are encouraged to join in the festivities this Saturday which include a cook-off, a turnip trot, turnip bowling and the crowning of Mr. Turnip. - The Cape Cod Photo Album
"This has always been fun, but I am getting to the end of my turnip creativity. I would love it if someone took over the responsibility of this festival and let me pass my turnip on." - Tricia Ford, organizer of Eastham's Turnip Festival, in The Cape Codder
"I am the turnip king. I can do anything." - Jim Morrison
When was it that the Turnip Festival turned from an event of joy into one of sorrow, from privilege into chore? It seems so long ago, yet I know the metamorphosis has been a rapid one. I see photographs from recent months where I still wear white and purple, and there is no discomfort in my eyes.
The dream dissipated as all dreams do when held up to the light of reason, a light who's harshness lets no illusion remain except that of wisdom. And I thought that I was wise, and I knew that I was sad, and the rutabaga's brother did anoint me. Call me by my name, Mister Turnip, then turn your head and let me pass in peace.
It appears that I may be the last to hold the turnip title. At first, the happy people of Eastham were delighted with their special festival, waiting in happy anticipation for the big day to arrive. Would the weather be okay? Who would be gracing us from the town's bandstand? (One year it was Tina Turnip.)
There were the crafts, of course; turnip wreathes, turnip centerpieces, and most popular of all, the little turnip costumes. People would dress their turnips as sailors and Indian chiefs. Presidential turnips were the big items for the first couple of years, with dozens of bright magenta turnips bearing the likenesses of Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan. The very first blue ribbon winner was a turnip dressed to look exactly like Mitzi Gaynor. The children did not know who Mitzi was, but we grown-ups winked in nostalgic approval.
We played games of course: 'toss the turnip' for the kids, and 'turnip skee-ball' for the young at heart. Turnip bowling, while sadly declining in popularity along with the rest of the turnip oriented entertainment, brought families together in a warm glow of communal laughter.
And of course there was the food! Turnips, for the main part, but turnips prepared in a matter that would no doubt be pleasing to British nobility, should they choose to appear on that happy day in Eastham. Turnips au gratin, turnips scaloppini, candied turnip with marshmallow sauce, and the favorite of every fair-goer, teriyaki turnip on a stick. Oh, the wondrous memories.
But memories is all they are, and we must move on. Last year's festival was the first where no Turnip Queen was crowned. Today's modern woman, they say, no longer finds the title Turnip Queen an honor. Sad, really, that they cannot find the earth mother within which basks in what comes from Mother Earth.
And now, even Missus Ford grows weary of the Turnip Fest, wishing that someone would just take it off her hands and dispose of it as one would do with some lesser vegetable.
Truth be told, I am to be the last of the Mister Turnips, which means - I realize in an emotion somewhere between awe and horror but probably closer to the horror side - that I shall be Mister Turnip forever.
They say that never may Mister Turnip marry, nor shall he ever find true happiness. (This isn't strictly true since I was married to Rebecca Sue Harkins from 1994 to 1995, but the happiness part is spot on). No, I shall wander all my days through Cape Cod, down the shady streets of Eastham, telling anyone who lends an ear tales of fiber and low fat. Shalom...
©2005, Mark Hoback