On Saturday, September 29, 10,000 fans of Fluff are expected to descend on Union Square for the annual tribute to this beloved Somerville invention. The whimsical What the Fluff? festival has a space theme this year, complete with a moonbounce, and will feature musical performances by some terrific local artists, a shenanigans stage and the Fabulous Pharaoh of Fluff competition. Yours truly is even a cooking contest judge! So get ready for a fun afternoon celebrating one of Somerville’s sweetest creations.
“I love that the festival has become synonymous with Somerville,” said Mimi Graney, executive director of Union Square Main Streets. “It allows us to advance Union Square as a business district. It brings people to the businesses and provides an economic boost.”
And though the festival takes place in Union Square, people from all over Somerville have been pitching in. Somerville High School students will be making thousands of Fluffernutter sandwiches, more than 200 volunteers will be on hand during the festival and the Department of Public Works, the MBTA and the city of Somerville have all lent a hand to help the festival come together smoothly.
“The city of Somerville has been amazing,” Graney said. “Talk about a well-oiled machine.”
It all starts with a quick breakdown of the farmers market (held each Saturday in Union Square from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. through November 17) an hour early. Then volunteers sweep in to start setting up the festival, which essentially takes over the Square.
“It’s the most exciting hour of the whole event,” Graney said. “It’s really electric.”
Once the festival gets going at 3 p.m., attendees will be immersed in this year’s What the Fluff? space theme. There will be live music from bands like Hot Molasses, which takes its name from Boston’s Great Molasses Flood. The Flood occurred in 1919, only two years after Archibald Query invented Fluff right in Union Square and as Graney said, both Fluff and molasses are “sugar that’s getting out of control.” Hornography, The Burlies and a performance by the Flufferettes, who will be donning cool space-themed outfits, by Through the Keyhole Burlesque will round out the entertainment.
For those handy in the kitchen, there’s a cooking contest, where you can show off your best original Fluff dish or your best riff on a classic for a chance to win a tour of the Durkee Mower Fluff Factory, a trophy, gift certificates to local businesses and of course, the glory of coming out on top.
Fluff Factory tours aren’t easy to come by, Graney said. “It’s very Willy Wonka, you gotta work for it.”
Local businesses, like Culinary Cruisers’ Ocean Ave Pops, will also be serving up Fluff-flavored treats. Josh Danoff, the man behind the pops, says that there will be a few new flavors for attendees to enjoy.
“The Fluff festival gives people a platform to take products that they have and do things they wouldn’t normally do,” Danoff said.
To that end, one of the Ocean Ave Pops that will be available at the festival is a riff on the current banana and chocolate offering. Danoff said that for the festival, he’s adding cherries, peanut butter and Fluff and calling it the Lickity Split. And look for some beer-themed pops that will incorporate some of the flavors found in Somerville’s Pretty Things Beer.
“For us, with the fun nature of pops in general, this is just catapulting it to the next level,” Danoff said.
In addition to the Fluff treats, the festival will feature the Fabulous Pharaoh of Fluff competition where competing sides will duke it out with marshmallow shooters made by Artisan’s Asylum to see who will be crowned the reigning king of Fluff.
“I’m buying cases of mini-marshmallows,” Graney said. Adding that after selling out of the marshmallow shooters early in the last few festivals, she told Artisan’s Asylum to “shoot the moon” with this year’s production. So they bought a special PVC pipe cutter and got to work making hundreds of the shooters for the festival.
And if that’s not enough, the shenanigans stage will have goofy games like the Fluff Lick-Off, Fluff Hair Dos and Blind Man’s Fluff. One of the most popular games is Fear Factor, where Fluff festival volunteers create bizarre food combinations for people to taste test.
“For Fear Factor, we think about what kind of gross food combinations can we torture people with?” Graney said. Adding that people seem to love the game, the grosser the better.
Putting the Fluff festival together is certainly a community effort, one that’s come to represent all things Union Square and Somerville.
“The style of the festival fits with the culture of the neighborhood,” Graney said. “The playfulness and not taking itself too seriously. It’s inclusive. It lets everybody feel like a VIP and gives everyone a chance to own it.”
What the Fluff? Festival
Saturday, September 29 (rain date Sunday, September 30)
3 p.m.-7 p.m.
All photos courtesy of Union Square Main Streets.