Family-friendly event fetes native fruit.

The tropical taste of the Ohio-grown pawpaw often surprises with its mix of mango and banana. The Athens County festival celebrating North America's largest native tree fruit also has an unexpected flavor.

Don't look for a midway or a fair-like atmosphere at the Ohio Pawpaw Festival, said Paige Alost, executive director of the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Instead, children can take a horse-drawn wagon ride around Lake Snowden or drive an antique pedal car. “It's a quirky, fun festival that celebrates the culture of Southeast Ohio,” she said.

The 19th annual event will again be held at Lake Snowden near Albany, less than 10 miles southwest of Athens and Ohio University along U.S. Route 50. “It's like Athens 101,” Alost said. “It's a great introduction to what's most important in our community.”

The festival, which strives to operate at zero waste, includes a pawpaw cook-off, pawpaw-eating contest and pawpaw-related art competition. It also offers a marketplace of locally made goods, live music and a kids tent with inflatables, a play area and a full schedule of activities.

Attendees will have the chance to sample pawpaws, a greenish-yellow fruit with a pale orange center, in many forms. Snowville Creamery brings its specialty pawpaw ice cream. Jackie O's, a local brewer, sells a pawpaw wheat beer.

Every food vendor must sell at least one item that contains the creamy-textured fruit. Treats range from cheesecake to relish. “People don't expect to find the pawpaw cooked in so many ways,” Alost said.

The Pawpaw Festival also focuses on education and fun, she added. Storytelling, art projects, Nerf dart wars, pond explorations and other children's activities are planned throughout the weekend. Kids—and adults—can check out the annual Pawpaw Gauntlet Obstacle Course, whose challenges include dodging hay bales, walking a plank and flipping tires, Alost said.

Everyone is invited to help construct the Chateau de Cardboard, which organizers hope will become one of the world's largest cardboard structures. New this year is the Pawlympics, a series of field and strength games that's intended to promote healthy competition and audience participation, according to organizers.

“A lot of people know us as a college town,” Alost said. “If you go to the Pawpaw Festival, you will know us as a pawpaw town.”