Pasty Fest returns to Calumet

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Sean Nichols raises his hand in triumph after winning the pasty-eating contest at Pasty Fest Saturday.

CALUMET — Throngs of people filled downtown Calumet to browse vendors, see classic cars and, yes, eat pasties at the 17th annual Pasty Fest Saturday.

Eaters had their say in determining the winner of the annual bake off. They were given a sampler of unidentified mini-pasties from each contestant, then submitted the toothpick from the one they liked best. The blue toothpick — Slim’s Cafe in Mohawk — won the title.

Since buying Slim’s Cafe two years ago, she’s had pasties as an occasional special, said co-owner Sandra Isaacson. What made them win? Real butter in the crusts, and garlic, Isaacson said. Oh, and rutabagas.

“We like the flavor, and we like the color, too,” she said. “It’s a little bit different texture in there for the pasty.”

Other attractions included a parade down Sixth Street and the pasty-eating contest. Six contestants got five minutes to eat as many pasties as they could handle, aided by water or ketchup.

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette The pasty and its ingredients march down Sixth Street during Pasty Fest Saturday.

“You’re not going to use gravy because that’s an abomination in my eyes,” said contest organizer Rebekka Mikkola.

Four contestants tied at two each, forcing sudden death. Sean Nichols, who had only a bite left when time ran out, was the first to finish the rest of his third pasty.

“The second and third ones I was given, they were double the size of the first one,” he said.

The festival’s getting better known, Mikkola said. This year, they were able to fill out the field with contestants who pre-registered beforehand. (The T-shirt — a pasty-themed takeoff on Metallica’s “And Justice for All…” cover — was a big draw, Mikkola said.)

“We had a lot of people in town in general, and then the crowd doubled for the eating contest,” she said.

Pasty vendors nearby were on hand for those who wanted to enjoy one at their own pace. Jon O. Saterstad of Houghton was attending his first PastyFest.

“I’d never been here, so I decided, ‘Let’s check it out, get some pasties,'” he said. “The cars are cool, too. I never knew all this was going on.”

Further down Fifth Street, there were blocks of vendors, a classic car show and even rutabaga curling from the Copper Country Curling Club, which used the event to recruit new members. Instead of ice and brooms, contestants rolled the rutabagas on the ground.

“The rutabagas are all misshapen, so getting them to stop was hard,” said board member Jared Maggio. “It was a spectacle, but it was fun.”

The curling took place at Calumet’s community garden, which is signing up members for the 2022 growing season. People interested in signing up for one of the raised beds can contact Grace Schmitz at hgraceschmitz@gmail.com. She said the day had helped raise interest; people who stopped by could also vote on the garden’s permanent name.

“It’s very, very new, which is why we’re trying to build up some support and get some organization going over the fall and winter,” Schmitz said.


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