The Western PA Lamb Fest is a Must For Lamb Lovers

Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on June 5, 2023.

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This one should go without saying, but we love lamb. It is one of our favorite meats, and we are spoiled here in western Pennsylvania to have so many fantastic producers that raise lambs.

As such, it should be no surprise that there is a festival that celebrates all things lamb, and the Western PA Lamb Fest does that and then some at the annual event!

The Western PA Lamb Fest Showcases Local Chefs and Lamb

Samples from the Western PA Lamb Fest
Samples from the Western PA Lamb Fest

You may wonder how a festival works when focusing on one specific animal, and the Western PA Lamb Fest has a rather interesting take on the event.

Instead of vendors selling appetizers, entrees, and lamb-based products, as is typical at food-based festivals, the Lamb Fest is a ticketed event that follows what we would call a beer festival model. That is to say, the cost of admission gets you in the door, and then you can enjoy all-you-can-eat samples from all of the chefs and restaurants that take part!

To make this one even more interesting, the roughly two dozen chefs and restaurants were split up into teams (roughly a dozen in total) and tasked with creating a unique dish, made with lamb (of course), exclusively for the event. A competition element was layered in as well and a team of critics and patrons voted on winners (for a judged winner and a people's choice winner, respectively).

What creations were made!

In 2022, we were lucky enough to sample almost all of the creations for the event with unique collaborations like lamb kofta from Station and The Vandal, lamb pizza from Della Terra, a Reuben-inspired lamb pierogi from Nemacolin, a lamb corndog from Stunt Pig and The Speckled Egg, and, our personal favorite, lamb curry made from deadfish and Scratch to name a few (a few many times over, as well).

The Ticketed Element is a Good Thing Here

Samples from the Western PA Lamb Fest
Samples from the Western PA Lamb Fest

As mentioned above, you may be used to conventional food festivals where they are often free (or low cost) to attend, but you must wait in line and pay for any food you wish to sample. The ticketed element of the Western PA Lamb Fest was perhaps the best part of the event simply because it managed the crowds and made accessing all of the tents a breeze- albeit at a cost to match.

First, the inherent cap of attendees made this one feel like an intimate party instead of a huge food festival for the masses. Even at the event's peak capacity, we were asking the organizers “where is everyone?” and when the answer was “this is it!”, we realized that the small crowd (by design, mind you) was an excellent thing.

Compare this to food festivals that are overflowing with people, 30+ minute waits for food, quick sell-outs of popular dishes, sometimes hyperinflated prices, and more annoyances, and you can imagine how refreshing it was to be able to walk around and breathe while being able to try food from every team and all well within the event's total time limit.

Another reason why this one worked out so well was that most teams only created one, and in some cases a maximum of two, dishes for the event. So while there were about a dozen teams of 25 chefs, there were only about 15 food samples to try. This allowed the chefs and their assistants to crank out as much food as possible, plate after plate after place, in such a rapid pace that lines were practically non-existent at most tables (Della Terra's lamb pizza was the only one of note because demand for slices was that strong and pizzas take a bit of time to make).

So when we say this food festival had all the vibes of an intimate beer festival, we mean it for many reasons- accessibility to the tables being the biggest one (and, of course, there was beer for purchase, too!).

Overall, while we may be biased for all things lamb as it is one of our favorite meats, we have to admit that the Western PA Lamb Fest is an incredibly well-executed event. Ticket prices may be a premium over other food-based events you are used to, but with that comes several benefits, including, but not limited to, eating as much delicious, delicious lamb as you possibly can- and oh boy did we eat our tickets' worth.

We hope to be regulars at this one in the future!

The Western PA Lamb Fest took place at Southside Works in 2022. We were guests of the lamb festival for this review. As always, all opinions are our own.

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