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Eat by Northeast Fest Debuts in September

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With a growing number of new food festivals on the horizon, why should you choose Eat By Northeast (EXNE)? "It's a big, giant fundraiser and it's totally free," says co-organizer and Skinny Pancake owner Benjy Adler. Despite there being no entry fee, he hopes that, with donations, the event will raise more than $20,000. Those dollars will benefit five charities: Slow Food Vermont, the Intervale Center, Vermont FEED, the Vermont Community Garden Network and local food programs at the ECHO Lake Aquarium & Science Center.

Since there is no fee at the door, Adler hopes to go beyond preaching to the locavore choir. "We're trying to expand the group of people who participate in the local food movement," he explains. "So how are we going to do that? Through fun and education. The whole thing is designed to be very populist."

EXNE will be at Oakledge Park in Burlington Friday, September 19, through Sunday, September 21. The event is divided into four categories: Eat, Drink, Listen and Learn. Since his other food fest, Grand Point Local, is the weekend before, Adler is working to recruit different vendors to sell all-local food and drink on Friday and Saturday at EXNE's free concerts. Folks willing to cough up a little cash can opt into a sudsy "Brewhaha" beer and cider tasting, while those wanting to pair beer and chocolate can pony up at a beer and chocolate tasting hosted by lead sponsor Lake Champlain Chocolates.

On Sunday, the fest features a ticketed Great Harvest Supper featuring dishes from Hen of the Wood, Misery Loves Co. and Prohibition Pig, as well as Farmhouse Group butcher Frank Pace. Each will cook a whole animal, including a steer, a pig, a calf and a goat or lamb. Pingala Café & Eatery will provide vegan alternatives, while the chefs at Fletcher Allen Health Care will cook healthy, local side dishes. "It's a big collaboration with some of the area's best chefs," Adler says.

Meg Schultz, the woman behind the upcoming Bolton valley Hop Jam and Fayston's Siptemberfest, will coordinate the beer. For suds, Adler says to expect "the smallest, closest and newest, then, on top of that, the gods of beer." Those gods will include Sean Lawson of Lawson's Finest Liquids.

As for learning, festival director Olga Moriarty is scheduling more than 30 free educational sessions on Saturday and Sunday. Topics include container gardening and how to feed local food to your family for less than $75 per week.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Free Festival"

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