The 2020 Virtual Fall Mushroom Show

By Paul Hill

We are doing the annual show! This year it is virtual. Register at the PSMS website.

I thought it would be fun to explain what it takes to put on a show and for all those members who have helped over the years, we all can relive the experience. For all those members who haven’t volunteered to help helping at the fall show is a great opportunity to get involved and meet lots of mushroom people. This is how it all happens.

In the weeks before a show, speakers are lined up, and vendors are coordinated, supplies for the show are ordered, and volunteers are lined up for everything from ticket taking, to doing demonstrations, to providing snacks for the 100+ volunteers working at the show. The challenges with any venue are that speakers need a good convenient, but separate space to give presentations.

There has to be space for vendors without sticking them down a hall where people won’t see them.

Of course the central part of the show are the many tables of mushroom displays built from mushrooms brought in by members who pick them as close to the show date as possible.

The first show way back in 1964 was in the Pacific Science Center at the Seattle Center campus just two years after the Seattle World Fair. In fact member #1 was the first director of PacSci, Dixie Lee Ray. As the years went by the show has been in a surprising number of locations. It eventually settled into where we have our monthly meetings at the Center for Urban Horticulture on the University of Washington Campus . By the early 2000’s we were out growing that.
PSMS 2013 Fall Show at the Mountaineers building . Time for a bigger venue!
Recent venues have included The Mountaineers building out on Sand Point Way; Bellevue College, our first show outside of the City of Seattle; and for 2018 and 2019 the show was at North Seattle College.

Who knew that we’d go virtual in 2020!

So much goes on behind the scenes to put on a show!

We haul tables, lamps, displays, mushroom kit supplies, books to sell, cooking demonstration supplies, and lots of other stuff from our storage.

A large amount of what we bring are the tables and mushroom trays. Some of the trays are more than 50 years old! Every now and then we have to replace a few.

The night and morning before the show opens, members bring in fresh mushrooms gathered from near and far. Some years members have to go farther than other years, but we always have something to show. As we occasionally get asked; no we do not grow the mushrooms ourselves. Most don’t take to domestication, so we have to search them out in the forest and lawns.

Friday and into Saturday, the mushrooms are sorted by genus.

Meanwhile, many trays are filed with sand ready for creating trays.

The morning before the show opens, volunteers arrange trays by genus or a few related genera.

While trays are being built all the tables and displays are assembled.

To the tables are added decorations, lights, signage, sound systems, projections, posters etc. waiting for vendors to set up, demonstration to be added, and then cooks, crafts demonstrators, helpful floor walkers, and expert identifiers to main their stations.

Coordination is essential between the head tray producer and the head tray wrangler. It is not known until late in the game how many trays of what kinds will end up getting built, because every year is different. The two of them keep an eye on how things are developing while everyone scurries around to get the trays built and onto the floor.

The experts find and label each species on each tray once it is arranged.

Tray building continues through the morning. Now, you know why we don’t open until somewhere near mid-day.

Multiple groups of volunteers help build trays while others are sorting the continuously arriving mushroom.

Once trays are built, the identifiers correct and add any last minute changes. While others haul trays into position.

Eventually, rows of trays on tables come together and signs are arranged, but often this requires moving trays between rows of tables to get the final organization.

By opening, all the mushrooms are arranged, and ready for 1000-2000 visitors to visit the show each day.

Also ready to go are setups like this mushroom-dyed yarn display and demonstration.

Here is a little know step. Once everyone goes home on Saturday, the mushroom trays are misted and covered. All those warm bodies crowded in the main room during the day heats things up and dries out the displays.

The next morning some of the trays need some refreshing. Hopefully, some members have spied a few inky caps somewhere in town to replace the deliquescing Coprinus, Coprinopsis, and Coprinellus species which have turned black or just wilted over the last twenty four hours. Other species which need replacement include large boletes which often come to the show already buggy.

On Sunday it all begins again. We open the doors for another 1000 or more visitors.

There are more cooking demonstrations.

Another day of identifying by the experts of mushrooms brought in by show attendees. The identifiers are rarely stumped.

More teams of friendly volunteers staff the show on Sunday.

Luckily Puget Sound Mycological Society is full of friendly and knowledgeable volunteers, ready to put on a show and share their knowledge and love of all things mushroom.

At the end of the second day, all the mushrooms are removed from the trays. This is trickier than you might think, because there are nails holding up the base of many mushrooms just like in flower arrangements.

All the mushrooms, all the sand, and all the forest, field, and lawn decorations are sent off to be composted.

After packing all of our equipment into a truck, all the volunteers who are still around head out for an after party for pizza and beer, but the tasks are not done.

The next day all the tables, boxes, displays, and equipment are hauled back to storage to await another PSMS Wild Mushroom Show.

The 2020 show may be in cyberspace, but expect Puget Sound Mycological Society to be back again live for another Fall Wild Mushroom Show. I don’t expect the club to miss a show no matter the obstacles in its way. After all, we’ve been doing this over and over since 1964. See you next year!

May you fill your basket with mushrooms and your soul with adventures.
-Paul Hill