When you think of bagels, what places do you think of ?

If it were me, I would choose New York, Montreal, and Eastern Europe of an earlier time (where the bagel is said to have originated before making its migration to North America in the latter half of the 19th century – along with the millions of Eastern Europeans seeking a better life).

I would not have even considered Mattoon, Illinois, but that is where they have been celebrating bagels with an annual festival for 30 years.

You see, the community’s connection to bagels began when Murray Lender brought the Lender’s Bagel plant to Mattoon and hosted a free bagel breakfast for the community. Over time the breakfast set the stage for what has over time evolved it is called Bagelfest. These days there is music in the park on three different stages, a Bagel Run, A Bagel Bow Wow, a Bagel Baby and a Miss Bagelfest. And of course there is still a free Bagel Breakfast hosted by Lender’s Bagels.

According to one report some 40,000 people show up for Murray’s largest free bagel breakfast in the world and woof down 70,000 bagels.