Small bites: Waynesville celebrates historic ties to ramps

CLEAN AND GREEN: A group of American Legion members prepares this year's ramp harvest for use as a featured ingredient in the upcoming Ramp Convention's dinners. Pictured, clockwise from left, are Chris Perreault, Tim Lawrence, David Cope, Mark Leopard and Phillip Leopard. Photo courtesy of American Legion Post 47

Two green sails signify the growth of a ramp in the dirt below. It’s a marker many scan for when foraging for the wild plant and a sight that’s sure to be flying proud at this year’s Ramp Convention in Waynesville. The event runs Saturday-Sunday, April 30-May 1.

“It originated somewhere around 1930, and then 86 years ago is when the American Legion [Post 47] took it over,” says Della Cope, who co-chairs the event committee along with her husband, David Cope. She’s been researching its history on the Internet and by speaking with local elders, though early details remain uncertain. At least for its inaugural year, the event was billed as a festival — the first in the nation to focus on ramps — but it became a convention with political leanings under the American Legion’s watch.

“This year, we’re trying to get it back to the old-fashioned way [like] when I was a little girl,” says the Waynesville native. “We’d come up on a Sunday … and you would have your politicians, your food, vendors, music, clogging and everything.” Cope has invited local and state politicians of all parties to set up booths and mingle with attendees once again, though she’s not sure who exactly will show up.

Beyond that, the two-day event offers a mixture of indoor and outdoor activities, including a car show and karaoke contest (both with prizes), a clogging team show and live music by Moonshine Creek on Saturday. On Sunday, the festivities continue with a raw ramp-eating contest, the announcement of King and Queen of the Ramp, a pool tournament, more clogging and performances by the Mile High Band and the High Court Band. Both days feature vendors and plenty of food options (with and without the pungent produce), including a ticketed, volunteer-prepared ramp meal.

Cope points out that The American Legion Post 47 is the only group with rights to harvest ramps from the Waynesville Watershed off Allens Creek with an appointment. So each year, multiple people venture out to collect enough for the big weekend. “That’s where 90 percent of our ramps come from every year, so they’re local,” she says.

Proceeds and donations from the event benefit area veterans, who are granted assistance through the American Legion or partner organizations like Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry’s Veteran’s Restoration Quarters.

Ramps are “just something that our ancestors were raised on,” Cope says of the historic connection to Waynesville, though she also calls the plant a love-it-or-hate-it type of food. “My brother used to eat them and then go to school. The aroma was so bad, even using mouthwash, the kids would say, ‘Oh!'”

The 86th Annual Ramp Convention is 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, April 30, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, May 1, at American Legion Post 47, 171 Legion Drive, Waynesville. Admission is $6 per person per day or $8/$10 with one ramp meal ticket. A $15 pass includes admission to both days plus one meal. Kids 12 and younger may enter free. Visit avl.mx/2hs for details.

Farm Burger plans South Asheville location

Fast-casual eatery Farm Burger is supplementing its downtown location with a 2,700-square-foot eatery in South Asheville. The new spot, which is projected to launch in early May, will be the chain’s second restaurant in North Carolina and its eighth in the nation. Nashville, Tenn., and Birmingham, Ala., are up next, but according to co-founder George Frangos, Asheville “continues to be one of our favorite cities, with a community that shares our passion for good, local food.” The space will include patio seating, and the menu will feature Farm Burger’s existing lunch and dinner offerings including grass-fed beef burgers, sandwiches made with pasture-raised meats, veggie burgers, sides and drinks.

The new Farm Burger opens in May at 1831 Hendersonville Road. Hours will be 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Visit farmburger.net for more information.

Belly Up’s pay-it-forward program

Local food truck Belly Up recently launched its Put One on the Board initiative to help individuals in need of a meal. Customers can buy an extra meal ticket with their order, and later, when someone else doesn’t have the means to pay, it can be redeemed. “It has been amazing to see how many people in our city donate toward feeding others, and that each week, as we take hundreds of dollars of donated meals off the board, it fills right back up again by the following week,” reads a company media release. The owners hope similar concepts will spring up among other local businesses.

For Belly Up’s hours and locations, including its Thursday lunch shift at 51 Coxe Ave., visit bellyuptruck.com or call 782-4524.

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About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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