People in the Ballplay community of Tellico Plains are ready to “ramp” up spring activities.

Also known as wild leeks, ramps are spring onions that are native to the eastern North American mountains. They are often found growing in patches in rich, moist forest areas above 3,000 feet in elevation.

According to community members, ramps start growing while the trees are still bare, but the minute the canopy of trees develop, the sunlight is blocked and the ramps stop developing. As one of the first plants to emerge in the spring, ramps were traditionally consumed as the season’s first “greens.” These plants with their onion taste and strong garlic-like aroma are only available briefly though, disappearing by summer.

Capitalizing on the short availability of ramps, the Ballplay Ruritan Club will host the ninth annual Ramp Festival today, April 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Friends Meeting of Ballplay Fellowship Hall and grounds. The event is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Ruritan Club and proceeds from the event will help the organization with community projects.

The Ballplay Ruritan Club was chartered on Aug. 28, 2008, and is made up of members who are dedicated to giving of themselves through helping their community a better place. Some of the projects taken on by the club have been the Neighborhood Watch Program, helping provide scholarships for students going to college or anyone in a vocational program, sponsoring Girl Scouts, sponsoring Keep Monroe County Beautiful, helping neighbors built needed projects, providing CPR classes, making Christmas baskets for needy families, supporting local public services (law enforcement, fire and rescue, etc.) and more.

“It’s a great organization to be involved with,” said Bill Hooven with the Ruritan Club. “It’s all about neighbors helping their neighbors.”

The Ramp Festival features a variety of family activities, live entertainment, vendors and local community organizations.

Vendors are invited to set up booths to sell their own crafts or manufactured items. A 12x12 space is $15 in advance or $20 the day of the event, if a vendor arrives during setup time.

The grounds open at 8 a.m. and vendors must be set up before the start of the event. To reserve a vendor spot, call 423-295-2755 for more information.

It is the ramps, however, that draw a crowd. The ramp dinner will be served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and includes ramps, fried potatoes, pinto beans, corn bread, bacon, scrambled eggs, a drink and a dessert. A meal ticket for an adult is $10 and children ages 12 and under can eat for $5. A child-friendly meal of a hotdog and chips will also be available, if desired.

The festival will be held rain or shine. Parking and admission is free. Friends Meeting of Ballplay is located at 157 Ballplay School Road in Tellico Plains, just a half mile west of the intersection of state Highway 360 and Ball Play Road.

Keep up with festival updates on Facebook by searching for the Ballplay Ruritan Club page or the Ramp Festival event page.

The Ballplay Ruritans meet on the fourth Monday of every month at 6:30 p.m. for dinner and a club meeting at the Friends Meeting of Ballplay Fellowship Hall. Community members are welcome to join.

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