Thursday, April 22, 2010


-- County, USA—The Annual Mayonnaise Festival happens every year, but for some, this gathering of Mayo Aficionados is a brand new, and big, deal.

Held in the height of summer for one week, mayonnaise makers, eaters and friends set up shop on the east block of High Street and have a grand old time. One booth, run by some of the original participants since 1978, Bertha and George Mason’s We Love Mayo!  draws large crowds year after year. They offer homemade classic flavored mayo, but they also put some twists on old classics.

“We cure one line of our mayo with red chili peppers for about 6 months,” says Bertha, 79, of –County. “Folks our age can’t eat it, what with digestive problems and whatnot,” she continues, “but that doesn’t stop ‘em from trying,” she says with a wink, and nodding to the near by Port-o-Let.

Just down a way from the Mason’s classic booth is the newest addition to the festival: Hot Mayo.  “It’s our way of telling the world how new and hip this festival really is!” Missy Smith quips. Smith, 29, is the newest appointee in a long line of Public Relations administrators for –County. “We want the MTV Generation to come on down and be able to enjoy themselves along side their grandparents.”

Hot Mayo features two main attractions, not so much selling mayo per se, but selling an image the tiny host town is trying to renovate. The first is a large, clear vat of mayonnaise outfitted with a dunk chair on which local high school cheerleaders perch, waiting for the chair to drop them into the melting goo. Contestants line up and throw baseballs at a bull’s eye lever. “We’ve noticed we get a broader demographic with this one than with the kiddies’ pool filled with warm mayonnaise,” Smith muses. Smith doubles as the high school’s cheerleading coach. “The prospect of throwing something at a pretty girl seems to hit home with the other girls from school who might be jealous of them,” Smith goes on.

On the whole, Hot Mayo draws the largest crowd, using a pass-the-hat method to raise money for the cheerleading department. The kiddie pool, indeed, did keep audiences’ attention much longer: young girls in bikinis rolling around in the yellowing glop makes people want to drop their dollars.

“Overall, this looks like it’s gonna be a good year,” Bertha Mason surmises, looking into the setting sun on opening day. Silhouetted against the sunset, the ever growing line of elderly people for the Port-o-Let brings a smile to Bertha’s face. “It’s only going up from here!”

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