WALLA WALLA -- The festival celebrating the tasty, zesty Walla Walla Sweet Onion turns 25 this year.
The festival is July 18-19 in downtown Walla Walla. The heart of the festival, which is free and runs from 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. July 18 and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 19, at the intersection of West Main Street and North 2nd Avenue.
New this year is the Sweet Skip on July 18. It's a self-guided walking tour of 11 Walla Walla restaurants where you can -- in exchange for tokens -- sample a variety of Walla Walla Sweet Onion-inspired foods.
Tickets for the Sweet Skip are $22 per person in advance. If you visit Walla Walla in the next week, tickets are available at Sterling Savings Bank, 2 E. Main St., and the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Walla Walla Onion Marketing Committee office, both at 29 E. Sumach St. Or order by phone, 509-525-1031.
On the day of the event, tickets will be available at the festival information booth but the cost will be $25.
In exchange for tickets, each person will receive a map and 11 tokens to be "spent," one per restaurant, for the food samples. Tokens will be available at the festival information booth beginning at 9 a.m. July 18.
To get your samples, look for the person at each restaurant wearing a khaki colored "Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival" apron. Samples will be given out from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Back at the festival you can put your tastebuds to the test at the onion eating contests. They are at 11 a.m. July 18 and noon July 19. Both contests will be at the bandstand.
The festival also includes vendors offering fresh Walla Walla Sweets and other produce, arts and crafts and tasty foods. There will be a variety of live entertainment including clowns, games, a Walla Walla Sweet Onion historical display and a children's museum.
Musicians Eric Bibb, The Atlantics, Nuketown and The Vaughn Jensen Band will play both days, including at a street dance beginning at 4 p.m. July 18.
There will be two cooking contests July 18, one for 17 years and under, another for adults.
Dishes can be entered in five categories: Appetizer, entree, soup/salad, dessert and other. The only requirement is the dish must feature Walla Walla Sweets as one of the main ingredients.
On July 19 there will be an art contest -- all media accepted -- and a floral competition. Flower arrangers can use fresh or artificial foliage but must incorporate fresh Walla Walla Sweets into their arrangements.
For full rules and entry forms for the cooking, art and floral contests, go to www.sweetonions.org/festival/2009.
For more information, go to www.sweetonions.org/festival/2009 or call 509-525-1031.
*Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; email@example.com