There's no lack of ginseng events in Wausau area in 2019, even with no Ginseng Festival
A brief look into who began the cultivation of American ginseng in central Wisconsin and what made Marathon County the number one producer in North America.
WAUSAU - The past two years in September, the 400 Block in downtown Wausau bustled with people sampling local ginseng food and drinks and watching performances from traditional Chinese entertainers.
The International Wisconsin Ginseng Festival was a hit, drawing out-of-town visitors from nearby cities such as Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis as well as travelers from China and other Asian countries, said Carly Hanney, sales and events manager at the Wausau/Central Wisconsin Convention & Visitors Bureau. The festival is put on by the Wausau/Central Wisconsin Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Sports Authority.
The lively festival took a lot of time, energy and money from local ginseng growers in Marathon County, Hanney said. That's why there won't be a festival this year.
However, the county will still see two ginseng-related events before the year's end. Ginseng Week in Marathon County will take place in September and Wisconsin Ginseng: Gold Standard Days will occur in December.
Moving forward, the International Wisconsin Ginseng Festival will be held every other year rather than annually, Hanney said. The change will give producers a break and allows organizers to focus on planning the best event they can, Hanney said.
The next International Wisconsin Ginseng Festival will be held Sept. 18 through Sept. 20, 2020 in downtown Wausau at the 400 Block, as well as at fields and other sites throughout Marathon County.
The ginseng growers are crucial to the festival's success, Hanney said. They have a physical presence in both a booth downtown and offer their own fields for tours and root digs. Since the festival is in September, growers also sacrifice a lot of time during the harvest season. Berries are harvested in September and the root in October, according to a joint news release from the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin and the Wausau/Central Wisconsin Sports Authority.
It all requires a lot of energy from local growers, making it difficult to sustain the festival on an annual basis, Hanney said.
The first International Wisconsin Ginseng Festival was held in September 2017 in downtown Wausau and elsewhere in Marathon County. While the main draw is on the 400 Block, organizers invited people to explore other places in Marathon County by touring farms and fields in places like Edgar and Marathon City.
The past two years have seen a 5K run in Marathon City, Hanney said, and there have also been tours at the historic Fromm Brothers site in Hamburg, where some say ginseng farming began in the early 1900s.
While there haven't been many details released yet about the 2020 festival, Hanney said "There's a little bit of something for everyone."
Tasting ginseng food and beverage is a popular aspect of the event. Past festivals have also seen performances like Chinese mask changer Bian Lian, a Chinese fashion show and a Chinese lion dance, said Hanney. Cooking demonstrations at the Monk Botanical Gardens have also drawn crowds.
People can expect the 2020 festival to be similar to past ginseng festivals in Wausau.
"People can’t go to other parts of the country and experience all things ginseng," Hanney said. "It's something truly unique you're able to experience here."
Marathon County produces the most ginseng in both Wisconsin and the U.S., according to the state's Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The cool summers, rolling hills and virgin soil allow for some of the highest quality ginseng in the world.
Even without the main festival draw this year, there will be two other ginseng-related events to look forward to before 2019 comes to a close.
Ginseng Week in Marathon County
The event will start Sept. 15 and run through Sept. 21. You'll see similarities between this week-long event and the International Wisconsin Ginseng Festival. However, there won't be any activities on the 400 Block, said Hanney.
For example, you can still enjoy locally prepared ginseng food and beverages, as the root is supplied to local restaurants so they can offer ginseng menu items throughout the week. You can also tour fields, dig your own root and more. There is no centralized location for the first year of the event, which is also organized by the Wausau/Central Wisconsin Convention & Vistors Bureau’s Sports Authority.
The Wausau Center mall will have a display where you can learn more about the ancient root's history in central Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Ginseng: Gold Standard Days
Starting Dec. 4 and running through Dec. 6, this event organized by the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin is a way for central Wisconsin growers to keep in touch with their clients abroad. Over 25 overseas companies were invited to visit Wausau and Marathon County, coming from China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam.
Business leaders from pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies will join retail store owners and even those looking to innovate energy drinks are expected to attend the event.
Visit www.wisconsinginsengfestival.com for updates this fall and winter on both events.
You can view a gallery of photos from the 2018 International Wisconsin Ginseng Festival online here.