Monday, October 24, 2011

Kenyon Grist Mill and the Johnny Cake Festival

Rhode Island has a reputation for being a foodie state so naturally you’d expect there to be quite a few farmers, producers, and food artisans that cater to this growing industry. We had the chance to sample a few of these local treasures at the Johnny Cake Festival held at the Kenyon Grist Mill in South Kingston, RI. Known primarily for their cornmeal, Kenyon Mill is one of the few local mills that crank out a variety of unique flours (and Susie picked up a couple while we there). Anyway, each year the Mill sponsors a two-day festival of artists, local food producers and live music in a small corner of rural south-western Rhode Island. We missed it last year but were determined to go and so we went this past Sunday.

Waiting to board the buses - body fluid cleanup kit at the ready
Sunday was overcast and a bit cool when we climbed in the car and headed south down I-95. Just short of the Connecticut border we turned off the highway and took the back-roads to the Washington County Fairgrounds where we parked our car and hopped into line for one of the shuttle buses to the mill. (This is a big deal in this corner of the planet apparently.) It was curious to sit in seats designed for primary school kids – rather like sitting in coach on an airplane – although the Body Fluid Cleanup Kit at the front of the bus seemed a bit ominous.

A few minutes cruising the back-roads of Richmond and South Kingston and we pulled into the mill – sort of – where we unloaded one bus at a time and one person at a time (again the airline analogy struck as more than coincidence). The mill is located along the edge of a beautiful pond which feeds into a small stream, the Osequamethportajohnhiyaboys River, which serves to drive the mill’s grindstones (so we were told).

We joined the throngs of folks seeming to be going in every direction – this is New England after all -- and strolling past crafters, artisans and food booths, occasionally stopping to ogle something of interest or sample something that looked tasty. There was an all-girl folk band playing on the small stage next to the mill building, which we toured as well (tiny operation, one very old and one very man inside both giving impromptu talks about how the place works).
Explanations of how things work from young and old

Susan picked up some of their cornmeal and some of their specialty flour and we headed back to find a bus to return us to our car.

It was plenty of fun to be sure – and reminded us both of some many small-town craft fairs and festivals we had the good pleasure to experience in Vermont.

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