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Weekend's Empire Asparagus Festival faces lack of vegetable because of cool, late spring

EMPIRE, Mich. - The missing ingredient at this weekend's Empire Asparagus Festival is asparagus.

The long, cold winter and cool spring have delayed this year's crop in the northern Lower Peninsula, leaving festival organizers scrambling for a replacement source.

The festival's usual supplier is Harry Norconk of Norconk Farm, which doesn't have an asparagus crop yet.

An ample supply of asparagus won't be available until about Tuesday, Norconk told the Traverse City Record-Eagle (http://bit.ly/1n3YiYv ). He said he's sold as much as 500 pounds of asparagus during some festivals.

During the festival, restaurants serve asparagus-themed food and drinks, including asparagus martinis, beer and bratwursts. This year, restaurant owners will look to asparagus supplies from southern Michigan to meet the demand.

"I'm not sure where it's going to be coming out of at this point," said Keil Moshier, owner of Bay Town Kitchen in Traverse City. "Last year it was abundant up here and the price was great. This year nothing is available and the price is horrible."

This year's festival will highlight other locally grown foods to fill the gap, said event organizer Paul Skinner of the Empire Chamber of Commerce.

"I think basically any farm product, if it's being picked this morning and you're eating it for dinner that evening, that is the big thing," Skinner said.

The festival owns Friday night with a dance and pig roast. Saturday morning's activities include a 5k "Kick Ass-paragus Fun Run/Walk" and an asparagus recipe contest and cook-off. The Asparagus Festival Parade is set for 4 p.m. Saturday, with a breakfast Sunday till noon at the Empire Township Hall.

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Online:

Festival: http://bit.ly/1nWAJ50

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Information from: Traverse City Record-Eagle, http://www.record-eagle.com

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