With the polar vortex, snow and icy weather the region has seen this winter, summer feels like a distant memory. But it’s on its way, and with summer, comes Somerset’s annual Pea Soup Days festival.

This year’s festival (June 5-8) is going to be better and bigger than ever, thanks to the Somerset Chamber of Commerce partnering with the Somerset Lions Club and the fire department.

“It has always been exclusively chamber-run,” Chamber president Casey Goessl said. “We’ve lost a lot of volunteers over the years and the last few years there were just a handful running everything. The Lions Club and the fire department have been more than gracious to provide some help.”

Lions Club member David Bracht said having only a few plan and do everything burns people out.

“It’s easier on everyone if there are more people to help,” Bracht said. “The committee has been meeting about once a month to plan.”

Goessl said the main goal is to get the community totally involved in Pea Soup Days.

Pea Soup Days celebrates Somerset’s French-Canadian heritage, Bracht said. In an email to Bracht, Somerset High School speech/journalism teacher Jeanne Germain said pea soup was a staple food for the French-Canadians who settled in the area.

“The reason for this was that the ingredients were so simple and they were also easily transported/stored,” Germain wrote. “Smoked ham, dried peas and potatoes were all that was needed and they all last a long time.”

“La soupe au pois” (pea soup in French) will be made by area Boy Scouts this year, Bracht said. A different community organization makes the festival feature each year.

“It has such a unique flair,” Goessl said. “So many look forward to it each year.”

Somerset has been celebrating its heritage with Pea Soup Days since the 1940s or ‘50s, Germain said.

Many of Pea Soup Days’ main attractions will take place this year as usual, including Thursday’s kickoff 5K race, softball tournament, golf tournament, craft fair, food concessions, carnival and pedal tractor races. Other highlights will be Friday night fireworks and live bands in Village Park on Friday and Saturday nights.

Revelers can look forward to a medallion hunt this year for the first time. Bracht said clues for the hunt will be published on peasoupdays.com three weeks before the festival, beginning on May 12. Clues will be posted every three or four days until June 5.

“I will say that the medallion will be on village property and that no one will need to climb, dig or use tools to find it,” Bracht said.

The finder of the medallion will win $250, donated by the Lions. To redeem the full amount of the prize, the winner must have a Pea Soup Days button.

Somerset royalty?

Pea Soup Days committee member Lori Mathys and others want to revive the Somerset Royalty program this year, if there’s enough community interest.

“It has been 15 years since the community of Somerset has been represented by royalty,” Mathys said.

Mathys believes having royalty represent Somerset is an important step for the community, not only to provide children with positive role models, but to provide a face to the Somerset community at other communities’ events and festivals.

“It validates our community and shows how Somerset has grown and become a community focused on family values,” Mathys said. “Attending parades, events and activities in other communities educates our neighbors about the character and values of Somerset, as well as promoting Pea Soup Days, Somerset tourism and economy. They will be leaders in the community and school, know the importance of community service and have outstanding academics.”

Mathys said the royalty program will be open to sophomores and juniors living in the Somerset School District. Candidacy requirements will be similar to those of student athletes. Young women hoping to become a member of the royalty should be prepared to make a commitment to participate in parades and community events. Three young ladies will be chosen to fulfill the roles of Miss Somerset and two princesses.

To move forward with the program, six candidates need to enter the contest. An information packet for parents and candidates will be available at the Somerset High School office next week. The deadline to enter is March 21.

Bracht said if the royalty program succeeds, Miss Somerset and the two princesses will ride in convertibles in parades. No float is planned for this year.

For more information on Pea Soup Days, contact Bracht at dbracht@davidbracht.com, visit the Pea Soup Days Facebook page or peasoupdays.com. For more information on the royalty program, contact Mathys at 715-222-0991 or 715-247-2111.