Pictures from the 2002 Festival and Championship

(Thanks to George Meredith from Traverse City, Michigan)





 History of Previous Years

 Here's a three part story about the 2001 event by Linda Goin, the editor of

Part One - Friday

Part Two - Saturday Morning

Part Three - Saturday Afternoon

We would like to thank Outdoor Illinois magazine for the article in their April 2002 issue about our festival. Click here to see article

A magazine published by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources


Entries Limited to 527 Competitors

First Come / First Served

Our event in 2002 with 697 entrants was the largest gathering of mushroom hunters anywhere - ever. We contacted the Guiness Book, but they don't monitor mushroom hunters. The logistics of an event with that many competitors are enormous. It is increasingly difficult to arrange for a hunt site to have that many people and still be fair to all.

So, for 2004 we have set a limit of 527 entrants on a first come-first served basis. Entries will close when we reach that number or on April 26, 2004, whichever occurs first. Last year entries were sold out on April 14 (2003). Walk-ons will be permitted only if space allows also on a first come-first served basis.

Each competitor will receive a souvenier Shroom Sack mesh bag with shoulder strap (a $10 value Shroom Sack).

On the first Saturday of every May, one of the most unique events one will ever witness occurs in the Illinois village of Magnolia. Morel mushroom hunters from Illinois and several other states begin arriving on Friday evening for an informal open house at the fire station. The agenda is mushroom discussion and free morel (and other mushrooms) soup.

Then before dawn on Saturday the usually quiet hamlet of approximately three hundred begins a metamorphosis. The event is the Annual Illinois State Morel Mushroom Hunting Championship and Spongy Fungi Festival. Women, men, old, young, entire families, several generations, from all walks of life - they all come, and the only thing they have in common is morel mushrooms. Some like to find them, some like to eat them, most like to do both.

By 9:15 a.m. the pre-registered competitors have reported to the sign-in table for last minute instructions and the busses have arrived to transport them to the secret hunt site. We've had as many as 17 school busses carrying as many as 697 hunters. And the only way to witness the excitement is to be a competitor because the parking area won't accommodate much more than the busses.

Once at the hunt site, a final review of the rules precedes an ambulance siren that announces the beginning of the hunt. The contestants scatter in all directions and in five minutes all but a few have disappeared into the woods.

The hunters have two hours to gather as many morel mushrooms as they can and the person who gathers the most will become the Grand Champion Illinois State Morel Mushroom Hunter.

The previous Grand Champions and the number of mushrooms they collected are: 1996 - Phil Gariboldi (293), 1997 - Mike Hanley (201), 1998 - Charles Osborn (55), 1999 - Darrell Cox (120), 2000 - Darrell Cox (104), 2001 - Gale Cole (110), 2002 - Randy Dedecker (117), 2003 - Joshua Joplin (139)

The hunters then return to Magnolia where the metamorphosis has continued. More people have arrived. Some have come to witness the return of the hunters, some are there to see the mushrooms being counted, some have come to see what the many craft show vendors have to offer, and some have come for the mushroom auction. Some have come to sell, some have come to buy. The prices can be anywhere. We've seen them go for as much as $50 per half pound or as low as $5 for the same amount. It is supply and demand in its purest, simplest form.

The festival also features many children's activities, and ongoing mushroom discussions or cooking demonstrations.

By 5:00 p.m. the day is over, the crowd has left, and the festival committee members are exhausted both physically and mentally.

The late John Husar of the Chicago Tribune said it best,

"In thirty some years I've covered thirty some different types of sporting events. For all the reputation mushroom hunters have for being deceitful and devious, this was the most congenial crowd I've ever seen.

This wasn't a competition, this was a celebration!"


Note, If you have a particular question about the Championship, please email Morel Mania or phone 309-364-3319




Write us at: Morel Mania, 8948 Illinois Hwy 18, Magnolia, IL 61336 (USA)

Phone: 309-364-3319

Fax: 309-364-2960

email: Morel Mania


© 2006, Morel Mania