The Federation of Fungus

I’ve no idea how mushrooms intersect with Star Trek, but the mushroom-lovers club in Santa Cruz calls itself the Fungus Federation and runs itself on the “Federation of Planets” model of governance, according to its website. Their five year mission: “Keep the ‘fun’ in fungus.”

Well and good. The Federation stages an annual multi-day “Fungus Fair” at Loudon Nelson Community Center and has done so since the ‘80s; the t-shirt above dates from the 2007 Fair. The very first Fungus Fairs, however, were sponsored by the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History in the ’70s. The image below appeared on tees for the museum’s ’78 Fungus Fair.

Santa Cruz County makes a fine hunting ground for wild mushrooms and fungus, what with the cool and the fog and the dripping-wet forests. I even get interesting mushrooms in my front yard. So it follows that like-minded Santa Cruzans would gather to forage for them, discuss them, and learn more about them. And of course eat them, so it’s doubly advisable that they teach each other to distinguish the edible fungi from the ones that destroy your liver.

One might even find and identify the illusive “mushrooms that make you smile.” But the website does not mention this. It does mention the annual mushroom-themed potluck “of massive proportions,” not to mention a “suds ’n “shooms” potluck held jointly with the amateur brewers, and other activities. The Federation likes to enjoy itself.

And of course, the Fungus Fair is “fungus fun for the whole family,” with exhibits, speakers, cooking demos, activities for children, and a dealer’s room. We went once; the place was packed. If you want to burst forth into the world of mushrooms, the Fungus Fair is a good place to start.

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