Festival spotlights seaweed’s benefits

[USA] Seaweed is high in nutrients, has great detoxification properties, may improve heart health and is an overall tonic for common ailments.

Making people more aware of the numerous benefits of seaweed, as well as the burgeoning seaweed cultivation and harvesting industry in Maine, is the goal behind the state’s first-ever Seaweed Festival.

The event will be held on the South Portland campus of Southern Maine Community College on Saturday, Aug. 30. The festival is free and open to the public between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. There is also a $100 dinner, featuring seaweed and other seafood, to close out the festival.

The Maine Seaweed Festival is the brainchild of Hillary Krapf, who after her own healing experience with seaweed has become an enthusiastic and passionate advocate for the macroalgae, which is now having a positive impact on the local food culture and marine industry.

In a press release announcing the festival, Krapf said, “Maine seaweeds are poised to play a major role in the growth and sustainability of our local economy and global health.”

She added, “Seaweed is Maine’s super food. Seaweeds are one of those things that puts a smile on people’s faces. Everyone is either very curious or has a great story to share about their connection to it. Throwing a festival was the best way I could think of to celebrate seaweed. I believe it is Maine’s most undervalued fishery.”

Krapf has spent most of the past year planning for the Seaweed Festival and has been working closely with the Maine Sea Grant program at the University of Maine to make the event a reality.

In addition, Krapf has started a nonprofit dedicated to seaweed education and community outreach, which she has dubbed Moon and Tide.

Krapf lives in Portland, but chose the Southern Maine Community College campus to host the Seaweed Festival due to its proximity to the ocean, as well as its status as an institution of learning.

Her first experience with the healing powers of seaweed came when Krapf was a young adult and got shingles. She didn’t want to use prescription drugs to combat the infection, preferring to take the holistic medical route.

Krapf said she both ingested seaweed and bathed in it to cure her shingles. After that she became “a huge seaweed enthusiast” and started offering seaweed education and outreach services.

What she hopes people get out of the first Maine Seaweed Festival is “an understanding of the diverse applications for seaweed. I am holding the festival just to share the importance of seaweed and to get people excited and inspired.”

Krapf said there are many varieties of seaweed, but the most beneficial species are the red, green and brown varieties. During the festival, she said, the focus would be on Maine’s top 10 seaweed varieties and how people can access them and use them.

Krapf said the Seaweed Festival is designed to introduce attendees to the “individuals (who are) on a mission to restore our seaweed resources and maintain an abundant harvest for our future, through sustainable harvesting, the innovative world of aquaculture and the expansive scope of education.”

One of the key events of the festival will be a panel discussion entitled, “Maine Seaweed: past, present & future,” which will feature some of the people working in Maine’s seaweed industry.

The Seaweed Festival will also offer interactive workshops and activities designed to let people “explore seaweed through a variety of sensory experiences and educational presentations,” according to Krapf.

Activities for kids will include a touch tank from the Maine State Aquarium, a yoga session focused on sea life, face painting and a seaweed parade. In addition, Mr. and Mrs. Fish will hold two shows to teach kids about seaweeds and the sea creatures connected to them.

Other planned activities, which are open to all ages, include a beach walk and seaweed identification event, food demonstrations, a waterside group meditation and a “magical mermaid” photo booth.

There will also be talks and book signings, live music and more, including seaweed-based arts and useful seaweed-based products. There will also be many local businesses and organizations on hand to talk about their role in supporting Maine’s marine industry.

The concluding dinner is designed to give attendees a chance to “discover creative and delicious ways to enjoy seaweed, but also expand their knowledge, as they hear the story behind each ingredient’s effects on our body, our land, our economy and our ocean’s ecology,” Krapf said.

The dishes served will all revolve around sustainability and restorative practices and focus heavily on locally sourced varieties of Maine seaweeds and seafood, she added.

The first Maine Seaweed Festival will be held on Saturday, Aug. 30, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., on the South Portland campus of Southern Maine Community College. The festival is free and open to the public. See www.seaweedfest.com for more information, including signing up for the special post-festival dinner.

 

Photo caption: Seaweed is fast becoming an important and viable product not only for consumption but also for agricultural and aquaculture uses. On Aug. 30, Southern Maine Community College will host the state’s first Seaweed Festival.

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