Above all else, the city loves its rhubarb

“Bebopareebop Rhubarb Pie.”

Word on the

Street

“Bebopareebop Rhubarb Pie.”

If you’ve heard this song before, you’re familiar with Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion radio show. A friend of mine, who is probably getting tired of listening to me talk about Sumner being the rhubarb pie capital of the world, asked recently if I’d ever heard the radio spot on this old fashioned, yet hilarious, radio show. I’m a Prairie Home Companion convert now, and the rhubarb pie ditties get stuck in your head once you hear them.

“Where’s my baby, where’d she go

I asked her friends but they don’t know

So I got me a piece of rhubarb pie

And here comes my baby strollin’ by

I know my baby loves rhubarb, rhubarb

Bebopareebop Rhubarb Pie

I see that rhubarb look in her eye

Bebopareebop Rhubarb Pie.”

I admit, the lyrics are pretty simple and old-fashioned, but they make me smile and I keep going back for more. The other obvious reason is that Sumner really is the rhubarb pie capital of the world. I think I’ve mentioned before that even though I’ve worked in downtown Sumner for more than 30 years, I hadn’t heard about this claim to fame until I took this job four years ago. I knew that Sumner Rotary served a mean piece of rhubarb pie at the Arts Festival every summer, but I thought that was just because whoever ran the booth loved rhubarb pie.

In the last couple of weeks I have been interviewing Ron and Nick Leslie and Burr Mosby, from the Washington Rhubarb Growers Association, to learn more about how we earned the title of rhubarb pie capital of the world. What a joy to learn about the livelihoods of generations of local farmers and how this agricultural industry has shaped our community. And while I love all the stories about farming, boxing, packing, shipping, the difference between regular and extra fancy rhubarb, when the Sumner Rhubarb Growers Association merged with the Puget Sound Rhubarb Growers, I am especially loving the old graphics these guys are digging up for me and sharing so that we can create an authentic rhubarb marketing history for the farmers in our area. Our goal is to use some of these graphics in our tourism promotions. And our plan for tourism promotion was drafted after gathering input from the community during our citywide branding campaign.

The rhubarb graphics I have so far include everything from crate labels to grocery store ads to ad photos of rhubarb custard pie and recipe brochures that are awesome. To be honest, I can’t believe how many things can be made from rhubarb. Growing up, I was only familiar with strawberry rhubarb pie and preserves. Now, there’s everything from specialty drinks to cakes to tarts to cobbler to syrup. And the “guys” have told me that several years ago they were approached by a vitamin company about creating a product that kept cholesterol low and increased fiber intake. Who knew?

There’s more rhubarb fun to share, but that’s all for this week. If you’ve got stories or photos, especially of the old storage warehouse that burned in the 1970s or the crates being loaded on the train, let me know. We’d love to include it in our history because we’re learning rhubarb is another healthy reason for people to spend some time in Sumner.

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