By Tom Nauman
Finally, Mother Nature cooperated with our State Championship and gave us pleasant day with no rain. Approximately 600 'shroomers, which included 38 non-Illinoisans, were transported to Condit's Stables north of Putnam, Illinois for the two hour competition. After a brief discussion of the finer points of the rules, the hunters scrambled into the woods. Within 20 minutes, Alan Ware of Bettendorf, Iowa returned with a bagful. He was given two more sacks for his return to the woods.
The competitor's consisted of 372 men and 226 women. 36 of the competitors were age 12 or under including one young lady age one year and 9 months. Three competitors tied for oldest at age 77.
The 1998 Grand Champion Illinois State Morel Mushroom Hunter was Charles Osborn, age 15, of Newark, Ohio who found a total of 55 (three sacks full). Men's First Place honors went to Alan Ware with 54. Women's First Place was awarded to Nikol Keller of Wonderlake, Illinois with 25.
Other winners were: Men's Second Place - Tom Fleisher of Gilson, Illinois - 52 mushrooms. Women's Second Place - Pamela Kodros of Alton, Illinois - 16. Pamela tied with Susan Reed of Princeville in count and the mushrooms were weighed to break the tie. Pamela's weighed 1 lb. 6 oz. Susan's weighed 1 lb. 1.5 oz. The largest mushroom trophy went to John Hamilton of Springfield. The mushroom's combined height plus girth measured 18.75 inches. The prize for smallest mushroom (not measured) went to Raymond Walker of Streator, Illinois.
Approximately 230 half-pound bags of mushrooms were sold at the auction for an average price of $18.00 per half-pound bag. One dollar per bag went to the Magnolia Parks Fund with the remainder going to the sellers.
Festival goers were entertained on Friday evening by mycologists Darrell Cox of Urbana, Illinois who led a discussion on mushrooms. The guests on Friday evening were also treated to a seven mushroom soup prepared by Larry Lonik, author of "The Curious Morel". Mr. Lonik also gave mushroom cooking demonstrations on Saturday afternoon.
The annual championship will be held next on Saturday, May 1, 1999.
The morel season in central Illinois seemed to be fruitful. Our last trip into the woods was on May 9. Although we found about three dozen in several locations, most were beyond edibility. The rain we received on the 6th and 7th was readily absorbed by the mushrooms and caused them to spoil rapidly. The grand finale was when our friend Tom, from Monmouth, glanced down and found a monster specimen that measured 11 inches tall and 10.5 inches in circumference.
I did manage to get pictures of a single morel that grew from 1.5 inches tall to 6.5 inches tall over the course of three weeks. I will have them developed by the next issue for all to view
Please feel free to contact us with questions or comments. Especially if you have ideas or suggestions for future columns: Tom and Vicky Nauman, Morel Mania, RR1 - Box 42, Magnolia, IL 61336, Phone 309-364-3319, Fax 309-364-2960.