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Festival is a honey of an event

ASHLAND — From honey tasting to talks by experts, pollinator products, music and even mead sampling, the fifth annual Oregon Honey Festival will offer a wide variety of options Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 18-19.

“Honey was my ‘gateway drug’ into beekeeping,” says Sharon Schmidt, director of Cascade Girl Organization, which puts on the event. “Lots of people know only one kind of honey, but there are actually varietals, just like wine.”

The event keeps growing, said Schmidt. This year Cascade Girl Organization has partnered with the Klamath Basin Beekeepers Association for the first time to help with organizational tasks.

Oregon Honey Festival’s main event takes place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday in the Ashland Elks Lodge second floor. About 30 artists, craftsmen and beekeepers will take part. Attendees can learn about bees, honey, mead, beekeeping and local opportunities to promote pollinator life. Local musicians will play throughout the day. Activities also include kids’ events, face painting and art displays.

Beekeepers will submit 8-ounce jars of honey to be judged by professionals. Attendees can also sample honey and vote for their favorites. Tickets are $10, available at the door, and kids younger than 8 are admitted free.

Amina Harris, director of the Robert Mondavi Honey and Pollination Center at University of California, Davis, will offer honey tasting classes at 11 a.m. and noon Saturday in the Ashland Springs Hotel Crystal Room. Admission is included with the festival ticket.

A Beekeepers Breakfast — anyone may attend — will run from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday in the Crystal Room of the Ashland Springs Hotel, with three people giving talks.

Harris will speak about honeys of North America. Carolyn Breece, senior research assistant at the Oregon State University Honeybee Lab, will give an update on the most recent research. Mara Bull Bear, director of Lakota Youth Development in South Dakota, will speak about the organization’s youth honey project.

On Sunday, a benefit concern to help save bees will feature singer-songwriter Jen Ambrose teaming up with Annieville on piano at Grizzly Peak Winery, 1600 E. Nevada St., Ashland, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Mead and wine tasting will be offered. The event will be held outdoors or in the Barrel Room depending upon smoke conditions.

In conjunction with the festival, eight pieces of pollinator art have been displayed on the second floor of the Medford airport. It’s the second year for the show, which includes painted bee boxes, paintings and photos.

Schmidt founded the nonprofit Cascade Girl Organization to put on the event and to offer education about pollinators and honey throughout the year. Schmidt is also active with the Bee City USA effort in Phoenix.

Tickets for the Beekeepers Breakfast cost $25, with an Aug. 13 registration deadline.

Admission to the Oregon Honey Festival at the Ashland Elks Club is $10, and the concert admission is $10, but a combination ticket for both is priced at $15. More information can be found at www.oregonhoneyfestival.com/.

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gamil.com.