For the festival’s fourth year it has outgrown downtown Kamiah and moved to Riverfront Park off Highway 12 where 50 vendors will set up shop. Events begin with a 7 a.m. buttermilk pancake breakfast sponsored by the Glenwood Caribel Volunteer Fire Department. Starting at 10 a.m. 240 plastic water bottles filled with sweet cream will be distributed, one per family, for old-fashioned butter making.
The idea to make buttermilk the focus of the festival arose at the town newspaper, The Clearwater Progress. In Kamiah, the first weekend in May is Community Yard Sale day. Crowds of people would come to town for the sales but quickly left once they were over. The community wanted to find a way to keep people in town to visit local businesses or tour the Kamiah Historical Society Museum. Somehow the idea of having a festival was linked to the question — how many people today have made butter the old-fashioned way, by churning it themselves?
“The buttermilk idea came up because it got people asking, ‘what is it?’” explains Sunnie Renshaw, a customer service sales representative at the newspaper and one of the event’s planners.
It takes about 10-15 minutes of shaking the bottle before the heavy sweet cream inside turns into butter, she says.
A local 4-H group then removes the butter from the bottles. After that it’s ladled out to the crowds to slather on top of fresh bread baked on site by local Dutch oven enthusiasts. Breads will include buttermilk biscuits, sourdough and more.
Anyone with a Dutch oven is welcome to participate, says Renshaw. Those interested in learning the art of Dutch oven cooking are welcome too.
The festival has caught on. Last year 120 bottles of sweet cream were distributed in one hour. This year’s festival has been moved to the park for more room. The festival has drawn attention from a couple national publications leading to calls from distant states.
“It’s gotten big,” says Bob West. “We don’t know what to expect this year.”
West is lieutenant governor of division 56 of Kiwanis. Kamiah Kiwanis is one of this year’s sponsors, along with the Idaho Farm Bureau. Proceeds from this year’s festival will go toward the Kiwanis Children’s Cancer Program.
There will be live music throughout the day. This year’s headline musician is Joshua Crosby. Kick-free cow milking is a hands-on demonstration by the University of Idaho. Donated desserts will be for sale from local restaurants. Information about the Buttermilk Bowl bowling tournament is available by calling Tamarack Lanes at (208) 935-2211.
What: Buttermilk Festival
Where: Riverfront Park, Kamiah