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Fabulous fairs and festivals around California

Bay Area News Group $4.95

BottleRock Napa Valley combines the best of Napa — cuisine, wine and beautiful surroundings — with a fun and diverse array of music. JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO – BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

festivity G U I D E TO WO N D E R F U L FA I R S I N O U R FA I R S TAT E

Blue-ribbon pies and pigs

Golden Gate Park fun

Art comes to life

Dancing in the vineyards

Pop culture explodes

From garlic to swine

Under the boardwalk

Flamenco fiesta

The retro appeal of the State Fair 4

Gathering of comic geeks, Marvel mavens 30

Foodie fervor, amped-up tunes 12

The festive deliciousness of bacon 38

Monet’s masterpieces take the stage 18

Sun-kissed fun by the sea 44

Glamorous fetes and pirouettes 24

Margaritas and Old Spanish parades 50

Plus: Crazy Races, strange parades

PAGE 36-37

How to dress like a Renaissance wench


Did someone say pirates? PAGE 68 Doublets and corsets

An L.A. schoolteacher’s party goes big 56

Broadway in the park


Show tunes, wine and Jack London 62

Section Editor: Jackie Burrell

Section Designers: Chris Gotsill and Jennifer Schaefer Copy Editing: Sue Gilmore







Let the Iowa State Fair have its butter cow .... S T O R Y B Y L I N D A Z AV O R A L



County Fairs are the ultimate celebration of local food, animals, games and oddities


he annual celebration of all things California boasts a monorail inspired by Walt Disney himself, futuristic concrete architecture, a wine garden that pours award-winners and blue-ribbon tributes to the nation’s No. 1 agricultural producer (which would be – ahem – California and not any Midwestern state). With that combination, you’d think Rodgers and Hammerstein had moved their “State Fair” musical to Tomorrowland. Over the decades, the California State Fair in Sacramento has transitioned from a homespun, tree-shaded affair with blue-ribbon jams and quilts to a modern fair that tackles contemporary topics (a farmworker exhibit last year) while still finding room for all those blue-ribbon jams and quilts. It’s a juxtaposition that, like this unwieldy state, somehow works. A somber 9/11 memorial created from a beam at ground zero occupies a plaza on the grounds, while a cool series of 11-foot-tall C-A-L-I-F-O-R-N-I-A letters (they came from Disney’s California Adventure park a few years ago) welcomes visitors at the front gate. But the 2018 fair may reflect its roots more than ever before. The state’s first exhibition, in 1854, was an agricultural one, with a total of $5,000 awarded as “premiums for the best examples of fruits, flowers, grains and vegetables,” Carson Hendricks’ “California State Fair” history and photo book says. Officials here had taken their cue from fairs back East, where


farmers gathered to show off not their crops, but their cattle and other livestock. In fact, what’s regarded as North America’s oldest agricultural fair, founded in 1765, is still going strong. The Hants County Exhibition will put on its 253rd fair this September in Nova Scotia, with heritage cattle breeds, poultry shows, dressage demos, tractor pulls and, to show they’re not stuck in the past, goat yoga. At this year’s California fair, agricultural successes both in the barn and in the fields will be honored, with an emphasis on the still-growing wine and microbrew industries. Awards will go to the best wines (a whopping 2,700 entries were judged), plus craft beers, olive oils, cheeses and honey — as well as the top homebaked goodies, home-brewed beers and kids’ efforts at canning pickles. Fairgoers can sample those gold-medal libations at the wine and beer gardens, learn the differences between olive oil at tasting seminars and pick up blue-ribbon tips from judges in the amateur categories. The “what’s new” list for the July 13-29 fair emphasizes the state’s future as an agricultural leader. National Geographic will head West to present a major photographic exhibit, “The Future of Food,” which explores the challenges of population growth. “It’s going to highlight how California helps feed the world,” State Fair spokeswoman Darla Givens said. And a life-size board game called “Life’s Big Ag-venture” will walk kids through the possibilities related to that challenge: Could


they see themselves as farmers? Or in other technological or environmental roles in the agriculture industry? Or maybe they could see themselves winning a messy pie-eating contest. Sacramento embraces every fair tradition, from wiener dog races and a baby animal barn to midway rides and vendors selling the latest in slicer-dicer gadgets. Two big draws are free with fair admission: live thoroughbred horse racing (Thursdays-Sundays) and concerts by country, rock, R&B and pop acts (on 16 nights). The secrets to a good day at the fair? Arrive early to beat the heat, ride the monorail for a good view of everything you’ll want to see and do, head for the midway games and rides in the morning or at night, check out the indoor exhibits in air-conditioned halls during the hottest hours of the day, find the cooling stations (they’re adding more this year) and then stake out seats for the nighttime concert. Oh, and when the temperature starts rising, make a beeline for Sacramento’s iconic maker of fruit freezes, Merlino’s, a tradition since 1946. Cal Expo legend has it that a fairgoer suffering from heat stroke was handed a freeze – and recovered before medics arrived. Details: The California State Fair runs from July 13-29 at Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento. Tickets $8 and up. Buy advance tickets online for the best deals. Find details, including the music lineup —War performs opening night — at

Previous page, Rides on the midway at the California State Fair dazzel in the dark. Freestyle motocross stunt rider Jesse Jolson, left, performs a stunt during a demonstration on the opening day.




Hugo Zacchini of Turin, Italy, is shot from a specially built cannon invented by his brother, July 19, 1927. He landed in a net about 130 feet away. In 1967, the daredevil repeated his act at the California State Fair. Onlookers watch a fairgoer try out some muscle power.



If you thought demolition derbies and pig races were about as wacky as fair entertainment could get,

Train crashes

Aviator antics

Aquatic horsetracks

Big blasts

Odd displays

Beginning in 1913, State Fair officials started crashing trains head-on – at 25 mph – to “amuse fairgoers,” author Carson Hendricks writes in “California State Fair” (Arcadia Publishing). Yep, and there’s proof: Official photographer Harold McCurry was required to document the fiery collisions from a close vantage point (he wisely moved into the camerastore business later in Sacramento). The crashes stopped after 1917 for one of two reasons: Officially, it was due to the shortage of metal during World War I. Unofficially, there was speculation that the Southern Pacific Railroad was losing too many engines to this fair frivolity.

In 1910, fairgoers were similarly amused by the feats of aviator Charles K. Hamilton, reputed for flying faster than a mile a minute — a record at the time, Hendricks writes. But the plane’s engine misfired, and Hamilton nearly hit some telegraph lines on his way back to the ground. He was banged up during the landing but walked away. Undeterred, the aviator came back in 1912 to race against a local brewer — who wasn’t flying. He was driving a motorcar on the ground below.

Horse racing has always been a big festival lure. But, as the history book shows, fair officials apparently couldn’t stand the thought of all that vacant land in the racetrack’s infield ... just sitting there. So in 1914, they built two large swimming pools for shows by “Diving Girls” wearing “fashionable” one-piece boy’s style swimsuits. In 1947, a massive lake was created in the infield for speedboat races and water-skiing extravaganzas, including a cowboy water-ski contest. As for the racehorses, they were either blasé or taking time off.

The final year at the old fairgrounds, 1967, prompted fair organizers to pull out the big guns. One was the “Human Cannonball,” Hugo A. Zacchini, daredevil son of a legendary circus family, who was fired over the crowd into a waiting net.

In 1924, California’s Domingo family was a big attraction. The fair recognized the 18-member clan, with its 16 children, as the largest family in the state, and then-Gov. Friend Richardson presented the family with a new car — a nice gesture for, oh, about a third of them. What if the next generations of Domingos continued to be fruitful? Legend has it that half the fairgoers you see today at Cal Expo could be descendants.


consider these attractions we came across while delving into the California State Fair history files.


Pigs race down the front stretch during the “All Alaskan Racing Pigs” races at the Alameda County Fair each year in Pleasanton.

California’s 58 counties all celebrate their history, heritage and agriculture with lavish annual fairs. Here’s a peek at five county fairs worth the trip.

Alameda County Fair

Humboldt County Fair

Los Angeles County Fair

Orange County Fair

Santa Cruz County Fair

Pleasanton may be a burgeoning suburban city these days, but the area’s ranching roots surface during fair time. For the third year, a cattle drive – yes, steers on Main Street! – will kick off the festivities. Throughout the event’s June 15-July 8 run (18 days over four weekends), nighttime concerts will supplement the traditional fair fun. And the racetrack will host three libationfilled events: one with microbrews, one with wines, one with cocktails. Details: http://annual.

Who says a trip to the fair has to be a sweltering affair? Consider this one in Ferndale, where the average temperature in August ranges from 58 to 71 degrees. Ahhhhh. The event bills itself as the “oldest uninterrupted county fair” in California, with plenty of oldfashioned exhibits. At the 122nd annual event, Aug. 15-26, live horse-racing is expected to be the big draw, with seven days of “Racing in the Redwoods” scheduled. Details:

There’s big and then there’s really big — bigger-than-state-fair big. While the state fest brings 511,000 fairgoers to the 350-acre Cal Expo grounds, L.A. draws about 1.3 million to its 487 acres of festival hoopla, which includes bacon-wrapped everything, of course, as well as hot bands, racy rides, a steampunk circus, fire-eaters, exotic animals and special exhibits, such as this summer’s 20 immersive exhibits celebrating the iconic Route 66. Last year, it was the GRAMMY Museum’s Taylor Swift Experience. The fair runs Aug. 31-Sept. 23. Details: www.

At a rip-roaring 23 days, this enormous fair packs a punch, from its Budweiser Clydesdales and Alaskan pig races to its unicorn nitro pop — a liquid nitrogen-frozen combo of kettle corn and whipped cream — and extreme pogo-stick events. Plus: a gigantic Ferris wheel, with 500,000 LED lights and 36 air-conditioned cabins, which will move on to the L.A. fair after the OC’s fair, which runs July 13 to Aug. 12. Details: https://ocfair. com/

To get to the fairgrounds in Watsonville, you have to drive along roads that go through many, many acres of crops – a good reminder of the county fair’s agricultural roots. It’s a relatively small fair, which is perfect if you have small fry. Besides the obligatory animal and produce barns, carnival rides and pig races, there’s a shaded Kiddie Korral where your kids can run off some of their energy. The event runs Sept. 1218 this year. Details: www.



Blue ribbon or deep fried?


INGREDIENTS: 6 Twinkies 3 cups all-purpose flour 3 tablespoons granulated sugar 3 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda ¾ teaspoon sea salt 1 cup buttermilk ½ cup whole milk 3 large eggs 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted Canola oil, for frying Powdered sugar to finish


What is it about county fairs that brings out the daft glutton in all of us? We flock to stands touting doughnut burgers, frozen unicorn popcorn, deep-fried Twinkies and bacon-wrapped everything. Some of us may shudder at fair fare. Not award-winning pastry chef and culinary educator George Geary, who oversaw the Walt Disney Company’s pastry kitchens for 10 years. His culinary arts-meets-pop culture career has included everything from Hollywood set gigs — among them, baking for the cheesecake-obsessed “Golden Girls” series — to his role as culinary coordinator and blue-ribbon judge for the L.A. County Fair for 28 seasons. His “Fair Foods: The Most Popular and Offbeat Recipes from America’s State & County Fairs” (Santa Monica Press) hit bookstore shelves last year. Now he’s dishing on everything from Elizabeth Taylor to deep-fried Twinkies.

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asked to make the monorail out of M&M’s candies. I learned never to say “no.” Q: Deep-fried Oreos, deep-fried butter balls — are county fair food vendors just trying to outfry one another? A: The fried foods are what gets a lot of the attention with the media during the fair, but the fried items are just a small sampling of the fair’s foods. I am glad to see some of the oldfashioned items such as popcorn and cotton candy still offered. Q: What’s a California freerange-organic-obsessed locavore to do when faced with a deep-fried L.A. county fair lineup? A: Bring your own sack lunch! Q: Which state or county fairs do you find irresistible? A: Dallas’ State Fair is just so much fun! Lots of dancing and food, lots of barbecue. Q: Now about those deep-fried Twinkies... A: The Texas State Fair was the first to offer this sinful treat.

Meanwhile, prepare the batter: In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, milk, eggs and melted butter. Pour into flour mixture and blend just until smooth. In a Dutch oven, heat 2 inches of canola oil over medium heat to 375 degrees. Working with 2 at a time, dip the Twinkies into the batter until fully coated. Place in the hot oil, turning after a few seconds until all sides have reached a light brown color, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain on paper towels, then dust with powdered sugar. — “Fair Foods: The Most Popular and Offbeat Recipes from America’s State & County Fairs”

Deep fried foods and pretty much bacon wrapped anything dominate the Sate Fair culinary offerings.


Q: Before we get to the deepfried stuff, how did you wind up in Disney’s pastry kitchen? A: Honestly, my path was not planned at all. After culinary school, there was not a pastry job to be had, so I went back to school to get my teaching credentials. I taught for a number of years, then landed a job at Marriott hotels. Marriott was cutting hours, so I thought, it’s summer, I can be a Disneyland ride operator. They only had positions in a barbecue restaurant, so I took it. I did that for a few months, and then I showed my supervisor my resume. Right then, I was given whatever hours I wanted and then (put) in charge of the pastry kitchen. Q: Most memorable Disneyland moments? A: I created the corn-dog recipe that is still used today in all of the parks worldwide. I created cakes for all the guests at Elizabeth Taylor’s 60th birthday party (at the park), Once, I was

DIRECTIONS: Skewer each Twinkie lengthwise. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze for 2 hours


KELSEYVILLE Beer, Wine and Swine BaconFest

SANTA ROSA Broadway Under the Stars

NAPA Festival Napa Valley

SACRAMENTO California State Fair

FUN around

the state

SAN FRANCISCO Outside Lands GILROY Garlic Festival


HOLLISTER Renaissance Faire

SANTA CRUZ Beach Boardwalk

PASO ROBLES Paso Robles Wine Weekend

SANTA BARBARA Old Spanish Days LAGUNA BEACH Pageant of the Masters





g n i OR CK


Swedish singer Tove Lo whirls through her performancet at last year’s 10th anniversary edition of the Outside Lands in San Francisco.

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Nonstop music and fabulous food make Outside Lands a standout affair

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ens of thousands of music lovers turn out each year for San Francisco’s phenomenally popular Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, soaking up tunes performed by top acts, such as Lorde, Metallica and The Weeknd, while enjoying great food and drink right in the middle of glorious Golden Gate Park. If you’ve never gone before, you may think it’s just another music festival. It’s not — and it’s extraordinary. Outside Lands is a representation of the Bay Area and this golden state, from what happens onstage to what transpires across its rolling landscapes, and a manifestation of its spirit and its setting. And the music is just part of a decade-long tradition that unfolds across Golden Gate Park’s meadows and groves every August. “The whole festival is an homage to San Francisco and Northern California,” says Gregg Perloff, CEO of Berkeley-based Another Planet Entertainment, one of the festival’s organizers. “We are so blessed to be able to work in one of the truly great parks in the world. It’s just gorgeous. You just can’t help but feel good.” There’s little doubt that those feelings are shared. “Another Planet has done a great job of building Outside Lands into an event that is on everyone’s Top 10 list of U.S. festivals,” says Gary Bongiovanni, editor of Pollstar, a concert-industry publication. “The lineup is impressive every year, but I think


the keys to success are the beautiful location in Golden Gate Park and the gastronomical elements that set it apart.” The San Francisco festival’s music headliners — this year that includes The Weeknd, Florence + The Machine and Janet Jackson — are, of course, always big names. But it’s a rare music festival with food, wine and beer vendors that can claim the same. Other festivals may truck in burgers and cotton candy; Outside Lands’ concessions showcase culinary rock stars and James Beard award winners. The festival’s Taste of the Bay Area lineup typically ranges from Roy Choi (Kogi BBQ) and Kyle Itani (Hopscotch, Itani Ramen) to Evan and Sarah Rich (Rich Table) and Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt (Tartine, Tartine Manufactory). The Wine Lands tent features 120 wines from California wineries. Beer Lands pours scores of California suds, from IPAs to sours. There’s a Choco Land of desserts and an Outside Clams for seafood lovers. A double-decker wood-burning pizza oven truck. Nitro cold brew. Porcini doughnuts. “The food is from all these wonderful local restaurants, as opposed to franchises,” Perloff says. “When you get a hamburger at Outside Lands, it’s a great hamburger. It’s just great food.” Actually, it’s a Best Damn Cheeseburger from rock-star butcher Ryan Farr’s 4505 Meats in San Francisco. The musical offerings are every

OUTSIDE LANDS MUSIC A N D A R T S F E S T I VA L The 2018 Outside Lands festival runs Aug. 10-12 at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Three-day passes start at $375. www.

equivalent of 2,500 people working the festival.” That crew of 2,500 people includes government and civic officials, a must for any festival held within the borders of a major city, as opposed to a camping festival. When you are doing an in-city festival, you have to start by making sure that the different entities that control your destiny – the police, the fire department, the transit department, the mayor’s office, supervisors – (are all) on the same page about what they want to accomplish with the festival,” Perloff says. “Our meeting of department heads is like 85 people now.” The goal? Awesome music, stellar food and Golden Gate pride.

Mai Tajina, left, pearched atop the shoulders of Greg Hamel, enjoys the Outside Lands Music Festival.


bit as notable – and plentiful, with more than 70 acts ranging from big-name headliners to rising stars such as Margo Price and even comedians performing on multiple stages. “We try to have a very eclectic lineup,” Perloff says. “We have comedy. We have local acts. Hiphop acts. EDM acts. Rock acts. And we have acts that appeal to different ages.” The age diversity, in fact, is a part of Outside Lands’ signature. “We have programmed the festival to be a multigenerational festival. It’s not a family festival, but it’s a festival where if someone comes who is 18, they might bring their parents the next time,” Perloff notes. “If someone comes to see a Paul McCartney or Stevie Wonder, they might bring their kids the next time. It’s not a testosterone-laden event. It’s a safe, friendly event. And a lot of festivals aren’t this way.” It’s a recipe organizers have spent the last 10 years perfecting. For fans, the 11th annual Outside Lands festival will last just three days. For the festival organizers, it’s a nearly year-round gig. Two of those weeks are spent in the park itself, prepping, then cleaning up. The rest is all backstage, in planning and logistics meetings. It’s something the organizers of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass music fest can relate to; they’ve been staging that giant festival at Golden Gate Park since 2001. The whole process is a lot like “building a city for eight to 10 days,” Perloff says. “We have the



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on every music fan’s bucket list.

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival This festival, which is held on consecutive three-day weekends in April at Indio’s Empire Polo Club, is the hippest of the hip. It sets the cool bar for basically all other festivals with its mind-blowing music lineups and Hollywood star sightings, thanks to its proximity to Los Angeles. No wonder this festival has become a SoCal institution. Make plans now for the 2019 festival. Tickets typically go on sale in early January; www.

Left to right: Jason Derulo performs at KAABOO 2017 at the Del Mar Racetrack and Fairgrounds. Festivalgoers attend Coachella at the Empire Polo Club. The gastronomic lineup at Outside Lands runs the gamut from sweet treats to wine.

Kaaboo Del Mar is a great place to visit any time of year, but it’s especially enticing during Kaaboo, the increasingly popular music festival that made its debut in 2015. Each September, tens of thousands of fans venture out to this lovely seaside setting, just a few miles north of San Diego, to see amazing lineups. The 2018 bill, set for Sept. 14-16 at the Del Mar Racetrack, includes such big-name acts as the Foo Fighters, Imagine Dragons, Katy Perry, Robert Plant, Halsey and Wiz Khalifa.

BottleRock Napa Valley This festival combines the best of Napa — cuisine, wine and beautiful surroundings — with a fun and diverse array of music. Where else can you sip Silver Oak wine and enjoy Japanese bites from Miminashi while listening to a hot new indie-rock act? And how diverse is the lineup? One year, the three headliners included country star Eric Church, hip-hop crew Outkast and modern rock legends, The Cure. Tickets for the Memorial Day weekend festival, held at Napa Valley Expo, typically go on sale in December; www.



Already hit Outside Lands? Here are three more hot California music festivals that belong



The Outside Lands experience offers not only an eclectic array of musical talent, but culinary talent, too, with 75 chefs, restaurant carts and food trucks serving up Bay Area tastes in Golden Gate Park. Some of the specifics change each year, as new restaurants are added or seasoned chefs take a breather, but here are some of the festival’s best bites in recent years.

Rich Table

Del Popolo

Itani Ramen

The Chairman


One might think mushroom doughnuts would be a dicey proposition — and one would be wrong. Dusted with dried porcini powder, Rich Table’s airy, savory doughnuts have wowed the crowds ever since they made their festival debut five years ago. These doughnuts practically ooze umami, especially when dipped into melty raclette.

There are food trucks ... and then there is this food truck: an Italian woodburning pizza operation run out of a retrofitted 20-foot transatlantic shipping container, with giant windows in lieu of a wall. It’s the brainchild of former Flour + Water pizzaiolo Jon Darsky — and his Neapolitan-style pizzas are fantastic.

Ramen and Outside Lands? Life does not get better than that. Kyle Itani’s slurp-worthy ramen — pork or veggie — is exactly the thing to warm you when San Francisco’s famous fog wreathes Golden Gate Park in chilly moisture. Itani, who also owns Oakland’s Hopscotch, opened his ramen shop in 2016, the same year he made his festival debut.

Forget Mao. This Chairman is all about bao, an Asian street food-meets-California ingredients bun filled with bold, wonderful flavors. Join the long line at the bright red truck. You can use the time spent waiting to ponder those big existential questions: What is the meaning of life? And do I want that bao baked or steamed? Filled with pork belly, spicy chicken or miso tofu? (Psst, steamed, pork belly.)

The Outside Lands experience always includes extra “lands”, from Wine Lands and Beer Lands tents to specialty offerings, such as Michael Mina’s Outside Lambs in 2012 and Woodhouse Fish Co.’s Outside Clams last summer. Dessert fiends should head directly to for the booth where the confectionery will be serving its signature liquid chocolate bars.



TABLEAUX VIVANTS A tableau featuring Edmond H. Becker’s “La Belle de Nuit” and Gaston Lafitte’s “Butterly Brooch” were on display at a recent Pageant of the Masters ANA VENEGAS — ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER


Art comes to life in Laguna Beach at the Pageant of the Masters S TO R Y B Y PAU L R O G E R S

‘Living pictures’ highlight Laguna’s Festival of the Arts


aguna Beach is particularly proud of two things: its legacy as a haven for painters and their work and its quirky SoCal beach town vibe. The Pageant of the Masters manages to honor both. For more than eight decades, the annual show has been the centerpiece of Laguna’s summertime extravaganza, Festival of the Arts. In a 2,600-seat natural amphitheater, the Irvine Bowl, an army of volunteer set builders, costumers and makeup artists helps prepare and stage “living” works of art — people who pose as elements of famous paintings and sculptures. This year’s pageant celebrates two major anniversaries, the pageant’s 85th and the Laguna Art Museum, another revered local institution, which is marking its centennial. “The director of the Laguna Art Museum came to me and said, ‘We’re going to have our 100th anniversary. Wouldn’t it be great to create some tribute to the local artists?’ Of course I said yes,” said pageant director Diane Challis Davy. “The founding of the museum led directly to the first art festivals in Laguna and then later the pageant. Without it, the pageant wouldn’t be here.” Laguna’s summer-long Festival of the Arts got its start in 1932, when local artists teamed up to display their work. The following year, the artists staged a public event to add some sizzle. A parade of local volunteers dressed as characters from famous works of art — Whistler’s Mother, Mona Lisa and Atlas, among others — marched along the Coast Highway to the festival grounds. Later, they posed inside a tiny set, holding their poses as tableaux vivants,

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or “living pictures.” Together, the parade and show were titled “The Spirit of the Masters Pageant.” The pageant, which assumed its present name in 1935, has grown to become a big deal. “We have between 400 and 500 volunteers,” Davy said. “There’s an annual casting call in January. We usually recruit about 1,200 people, and that makes up our casting pool. We need to fill about 150 roles in each cast.” To make things easier for the cast members, two teams — a blue and a green cast — are formed. “They alternate weeks throughout the summer,” Davy said. Except for Leonardo da Vinci’s show-closing “Last Supper,” there are no enduring traditions about what art gets presented, Davy said. “We try new things every year.” A live orchestra accompanies the 90-minute show, and it has a golden-voiced narrator: Richard Doyle, a founding member of South Coast Repertory’s acting troupe. He follows in some giant footsteps – the late Thurl Ravenscroft, the voice of Tony the Tiger, was the pageant’s narrator for 20 years. Sound wacky? Of course – that’s part of the fun. But as I discovered, participants and audiences take it very seriously. A few years ago, I arranged to participate in “The Last Supper” — the finale of the evening and a Pageant of the Masters tradition almost every year since 1936. I was playing one of the minor disciples (I can’t remember his name). Before the gig, I didn’t give much thought to what went into it. How hard could it be to pose like a mannequin for 90 seconds or so? But after spending hours getting costumed, wigged, carefully made up and placed into exact

Far left: Ray Lewis gets fitted with a silver headpiece before heading to the stage for his role as a metallic Duke Ellington.

position, then waiting through the narration and orchestral buildup for my moment, I got some butterflies. They only increased as I stood before dazzling theatrical lights, moths dancing around my head. The audience clapped, then watched silently and reverently as I tried very hard to stay at least Jell-O still. And I wished, in that moment that seemed to last forever, that someone had warned me not to drink too much coffee before the show.

IF YOU GO The Pageant of the Masters runs from July 5 through Sept. 1 in Laguna Beach. This year’s festival celebrates the centennial of the Laguna Art Museum and the artists who started it all, including Edgar Alwin Payne, muralist and founder of the Laguna Beach Art Association; William Wendt, sometimes called the dean of Southern California artists; and Anna Althea Hills, painter and founder of the Laguna Art Museum. The pioneers’ works, as well as several famous paintings and sculptures that have appeared through the years at the festival, will be part of the 2018 show, which is themed “Under the Sun.” Find details at


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Left and below: Jon David Kresovich and Mary Verbosky wave to volunteers in an adjacent painting before bringing “American Collectors” by David Hockney to life.

At low tide, a vibrant world of sea creatures awaits the adventurous in Laguna Beach. Artist Michaela Gardner shows off her screaming-red hand-painted silk kimono at the Sawdust Festival.

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This Orange County coastal hamlet is known for its Pageant of the Masters, the performance extravaganza that brings art to life. But there is so much more to see and do when you’re visiting Laguna, from sun and surf to even more art. Here are three favorites.

Explore a tide pool

Stroll the Sawdust Festival

Skimboard a cove

At low tide, docents on Main Beach and Treasure Cove help direct you to brittle stars, sea anemones, tube worms and other amazing sea life. You can pick up a free laminated guide at the Laguna Beach Visitors Center, too;

Summer in Laguna Beach is synonymous with this art festival, now in its 52nd year and featuring 200 local artists in ceramics, glass, painting, jewelry and more. June 29-Sept. 2;

The sport of skimboarding began in Laguna Beach in the 1920s, when lifeguards first used flat boards made of wood to glide across the water’s surface and meet an incoming wave. Watch professional skimboarders regularly at Victoria or 1000 Steps beaches or take a class through Solag Skim School; http://


Pick a cove, any cove... and dive right into some skimboarding.



You’ve cavorted at Pageant of the Masters and museum-hopped across the Los Angeles basin. What now? Here are five more cool festivals that celebrate art, architecture, film and literature.

Santa Barbara International Film Festival


Palm Springs Modernism Week

Napa Valley Film Festival

I Madonnari

Its proximity to Hollywood has always made this city a favorite hangout for starlets and celebrities. So it’s little wonder that Oscar front-runners flock to its film festival, above, with 200-plus film screenings that typically include 45 world premieres. It’s catnip to the festival’s 92,000 fans, too. The 11-day festival typically runs from late January into February, and tickets go on sale in July. Details: http://

The largest independent literary festival on the West Coast, San Francisco’s nine-day Litquake celebrates literature of every variety with a lineup that typically includes nearly 200 readings, interactive workshops and quirky literary events in expected and unexpected venues — bookshops, museums and cafes, but also bars, barbershops and erotica boutiques. Litquake will be Oct. 11 to 20 this year. Details:

This celebration of midcentury architecture, design and culture consumes the city each February with more than 350 events, ranging from midcentury moderninspired parties to architecture tours, design panels, a Modernism Week Show House and the festival’s signature double-decker bus tour — all the better to peek over the hedges of architecturally significant homes. The 2019 festival will be Feb. 14-24. Tickets for the fall preview, a mini-Modernism Week held Oct. 18-21, go on sale Aug. 1. www.

This five-day film, food and wine festival, which typically includes 180 film screenings, plus culinary demonstrations, wine tastings and plenty of movie-star sightings, has been ranked one of the nation’s top 10 film festivals by USA Today. This year’s event will be Nov. 7-11 at venues in St. Helena, Napa and Yountville.

This Italian street painting festival turns the Santa Barbara Mission’s plaza into a riot of color each Memorial Day weekend. Madonnari or street painters use pastels to turn the plaza surface into 150 works of art, as live music and enticing aromas waft from the nearby Italian street market. www.


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Diners enjoy the sunlit Vintner’s Luncheon at Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery in St. Helena. PHOTO BY BOB MCCLENAHAN

The glitz and glamour of


Food, wine, music and fresh air forge a cultural extravaganza


trains of Brahms waft over the courtyard of the Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, where hundreds of guests are seated, surrounded by the medieval grandeur of this 13th-century Tuscan-inspired winery and castle and its 30 acres of estate vineyards brimming with grapes. As the composer’s Piano Quartet in C minor flows from the stage and rises into the Napa air, an impossibly perfect day becomes only more so. Depending on the Festival Napa Valley season, we’ve lunched with winemakers at Cliff Lede or perhaps Stag’s Leap. A Chris Cosentino dinner lies just ahead — and then a chance to witness the jazz genius of Arturo Sandoval or the grand jetés of the San Francisco Ballet. Suffice it to say, Festival Napa Valley is not your typical music festival. It’s not even your typical classical music festival. It’s something much more lavish: a rare combination of world-class musicians, dancers and artists, gourmet food and postcard-perfect scenery. No lines. No roiling crowds. And you don’t even have to be well off to attend. Many performances are free. Now in its 13th year, the festival formerly known as Festival del Sole draws 10,000 people annually to see legendary talent in sublime surroundings, from violinist Joshua Bell to Broadway and Disney singing sensation Lea Salonga. It’s certainly California’s most glamorous festival, attracting the likes of Sophia Loren, Bill Murray, Kristin Chenoweth and, last year, the cast of “Hamilton” for 10 days of performances in iconic outdoor settings. Think opera under the stars, al fresco winery parties and gourmet dinners amid the beautiful, sun-kissed vines.

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IF YOU GO Festival Napa Valley features a total of 60 events. This year’s festival runs from July 18 to 29 at 33 venues around the Napa Valley. Ticket prices vary. Find a complete list of events, including free concerts, and ticket information at

The festival’s strong emphasis is on music and dance, but it’s the culinary arts that take the limelight at its Taste of Napa component. More than 70 award-winning Napa Valley wineries and cutting-edge restaurants offer delicious sips and bites at this gastronomic showcase, which changes locations from year to year. This summer, you can picnic and play on the spacious community lawn while listening to live music at the new Tuscan-inspired Vista Collina resort. Yet for all its glitz and glamour — and extremely spendy VIP passes — Festival Napa Valley is surprisingly accessible, offering a plethora of free concerts and tickets under $80. Well-heeled patrons may drop a grand on the opening night patron dinner and concert at Meadowood, but there are plenty of galas and concerts — including Concertos at Castello di Amoroso — for a tenth of that. Organizers relaunched the festival in 2016 with an emphasis on attracting younger audience members — in the classical music world, “younger” means audiences in their 40s and 50s — and spotlighting an eclectic mix of domestic and international artists. That means both big names and emerging talent, like soprano Nadine Sierra, who first performed at Festival Napa Valley in 2017 and is now arguably the new face of New York’s Metropolitan Opera. But the festival’s primary guiding principle has always been for

The festival’s strong emphasis is on music and dance, but it’s the culinary arts that take the limelight at its Taste of Napa component. In previous years, you could enjoy artists like Franc D’Ambrosio, top, at Round Hill Estates, Cirque du Soleil at Meadowood Napa Valley and Sergio Mendes at Castello di Amorosa or take a break to dine on fine food at the Culinary Institute of America.


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guests to have an unforgettable cultural experience. According to Sonia Tolbert, the festival’s chief operating officer, the celebrity elbow-rubbing may get a lot of press coverage, but this festival is really about musical discovery. “When it comes to the performing arts, you don’t really have to have knowledge of the music,” she says. “Just having a desire to appreciate great music and experience it in this iconic setting is enough. Getting to see music in an outdoor scenic setting like this can sometimes be a transcendent experience.” Especially when you add amazing wine.

Cycle off the grid through private vineyards in Carneros. Stop at Basalt for a toast with their Tipsy Carrot, a brunch cocktail.

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Whether you’re enjoying Festival Napa Valley’s classical music in the vineyards or winery hopping at back-to-back tastings, don’t forget everything else the valley has to offer.

Cycling in the Vineyards

Downtown Napa Brunch Tour

Falconry Vineyard Experience

Napa Valley Bike Tours offers casual guided rides ($124) that send visitors soaring off-road and through private vineyards in Carneros, a region famous for milder-climate grape varietals such as chardonnay. With an easy pace and frequent stops, the emphasis is on enjoying the scenery and learning about vineyards;

Food tour company Rooted Fork runs a 3-hour walking tour ($95) on Saturdays that visits seven of Napa’s best restaurants, from a casual pub to a Southern Italian restaurant and a French bakery. At each stop, you’ll experience the chef’s signature brunch dish, accompanied by a cocktail or mocktail; www.

Bouchaine Vineyards’ sustainable farming practices include using hawks and owls to chase pest birds away during the end of grape-growing season. They’ll show you how it’s done and even let you balance a bird on your gloved arm during this tour overlooking San Pablo Bay and Mount Tamalpais. The tour ($200) ends with a garden lunch and wine tasting. Call the winery to book a tour for July 8 or later;



Get up close and personal with falcons and hawks at Bouchaine Vineyards in Napa.


The Ojai Music Festival is a contemporary classical music festival that takes place in venues around the Ojai Valley in every June.

Everyone knows about Coachella and Outside Lands. But what about the festivals that celebrate jazz, classical and bluegrass music? Here are five worth a visit.

Ojai Music Festival

Valley of the Moon Music Festival

The California Bluegrass Festival’s annual family-friendly, four-day gathering brings together top acts in bluegrass, old-time and gospel on three stages in Grass Valley in June; http://

This one-of-a-kind Sonoma festival celebrates Classical and Romantic chamber music by Haydn, Brahms and more, performed on the period instruments for which the music was written. July 14-29. http://valley ofthemoonmusic

Mendocino Winesong

Monterey Jazz Festival

A philanthropic event, Winesong combines food, wine and beer — from nearly 50 Northern California purveyors — with live jazz, bebop, calypso, swing and more. September 7-8; https://

More than 500 artists perform on eight stages throughout the 20-acre, oak treestudded Monterey County Fairgrounds. Headliners include Norah Jones, Wynton Marsalis and Dianne Reeves. September 21-23; www.


This festival, which showcases classical and contemporary artists, has unfolded every June in parks, theaters and other Ojai venues for more than 70 years, each time imagined by a different music director. Grammy Award-winning Patricia Kopatchinskaja, for example, directed this year’s festival in Ojai in June; www.ojaifestival. org.

Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival


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KaPOw! Back in 1970, a ragtag group of hoodie-clad geeks banded together to celebrate the comic book and science fiction sagas they had long worshiped. S TO R Y B Y K A R E N D’ S O U Z A

Comic Con takes the cosplay concept to new heights — or widths in the case of Andy Holt and his Hawkman alter ego.



Super heroes and super geeks stage a super festival

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Entertainment Weekly’s Comic-Con bash was held at Float, the rooftop bar at the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego.



hey worried nobody would come to their little makeshift festival, but they persevered anyway. Thus, Comic-Con was born as a one-day event that drew about 100 people to sunny downtown San Diego. Forty-eight years later, Comic-Con is the mecca of all things shazam. Every year, cape-flying fanboys and girls from all over the globe invade downtown San Diego. It’s the mother ship for the fandom nation, and no self-respecting lovers of zombies, steampunk or superheroes leaves it off their bucket list. Hundreds of thousands try to land a ticket, but only about 165,000 actually score one to the July festival — and even then, the San Diego Convention Center is packed so full, you never know exactly which line you are standing in amid the swirling hordes of Hulks, hobbits and hosts (think “Westworld”), oh my. This is nirvana for the cosplay (costume play) set. The official guide to events is often more than 200 pages long, with more than 700 official events from panels to exhibitions and scads of unofficial programs. For the record, the convention sells out almost instantly, hotel rooms are scarce, and the big panels are almost impossible to get into. The upside is that you can have a blast even without a badge. You may have to jet around town from local parks to hotel ballrooms faster than a speeding bullet, but there is a ton of stuff that happens

outside the convention center. Tip: Don’t forget comfortable shoes and a backpack for swag. The over-the-top parties are legendary affairs. Think cocktails aboard a Viking ship, cosplay on a yacht and secret Metallica concerts. Entertainment Weekly is raffling off a ticket to its soiree this year. These epic bashes are often thrown by Hollywood honchos desperate to test market trailers for their newest movies and TV shows to see if they fly or flop with the attendees, now a highly coveted demographic. (Spoiler alert: Marvel says it will have no Hall H panel this year.) There are also now Comic-Con wannabes all over the country, from New York to San Jose. But there’s still nothing like the original. Even if you are the type who knows your Wookies from your Wakanda, you may feel painfully vanilla amid this intense crowd, where people are willing to sacrifice pretty much anything to get into their favorite panels. Did we mention that they call Hall H the Hall of Doom? That’s because even if you set up camp outside all night before the day of a big panel (say “Walking Dead” or “Star Wars”), you probably won’t make it in. Many a Mother of Dragons has been reduced to washing her hair in the Hall H sink after camping out in full “Game of Thrones” regalia. Comic-Con-goers refer to the grassy patch of lawn out in front of the coveted Hall H, the Mount Everest of venues, as Camp H. Die-hard fans don’t seem to

mind. They pitch their tents and wait for celebs. Over the years, everyone from Ian McKellen to Joss Whedon has visited the campers. And lest you think it will be smooth sailing once you make your way into Hall H, be forewarned that no one is forced to leave in between panels. That means that if you really want to see a 5 p.m. panel, you may have to stay glued to your seat from 9 a.m. onward (except for a bathroom break, for which you may request a pass.) Commitment is a key part of the Comic-Con experience. Many fans go into training in the weeks beforehand, improving their physical endurance before the Big Event. Planning is crucial. Study the map of the convention center. Carry your own water bottle and snacks, because many fans end up skipping meals to get their foot in the door of a coveted event. Some call it the Comic-Con diet. You should also know that the best time to scoop up any merch is on preview night, before the tsunami of kitsch washes in. Still for the faithful, Comic-Con is a pilgrimage into the heart of pop culture, a trip to the holy land of caped crusaders, time lords and Tribbles that is the happiest place on Earth. This is Disneyland for nerds, a place where no one blinks at a baby dressed like Yoda. Details: San Diego’s Comic-Con International will be July 19-22 (with a preview night on July 18) at the San Diego Convention Center;



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stormtrooper in midsummer. You may have come to San Diego for Comic-Con, but here are three cool things to do that don’t involve crowds and cosplay.

Explore Liberty Station San Diego’s former naval base has been transformed into a foodie mecca with shops, galleries and 30 eateries, hawking craft cocktails, breakfast beer, stellar brunch fare and even new-wave eclairs. Stone Brewing began the transformation when it opened its World Bistro & Gardens here five years ago. Now you can nosh Jurassic Pork bacon at Breakfast Republic, meatball sandwiches at Soda & Swine and grab a latte or a brew from Moniker General, an espressobeer bar and home decor store;

Right to left: The Spanish-style buildings of San Diego’s former naval training station. Mission Brewery is steps away from Petco Park and has a large tasting room. Fans in costumes at the 24th annual Anime Expo held at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Sean Vanderbilt as Dr. Strange and Cheryl Vanderbilt as The Scarlet Witch at the Silicon Valley Comic Con.

Take a brewery tour

Kayak the cove

With more than 120 breweries in San Diego, there’s a blond, porter or pale ale for everyone. You can go brewery hopping on your own, of course, or hop aboard a beer tour, such as Scavengers Brewery Tours, whose vintage Swiss safari vehicles tote a dozen beer lovers along the coast to explore three downtown breweries or a brewery-barbecue combo in North County.

La Jolla Cove is gorgeous from the cliffs above. It’s even better from sea level. Book a sea caves kayak tour of the Seven Caves and La Jolla Underwater Park, and you’ll glimpse sea lions, leopard sharks and garibaldi fish along the way.



There’s only so much time you can spend dressed up as the Incredible Hulk or an imperial


San Diego’s Comic-Con International draws fans from across the pop culture spectrum, from graphic-novel devotees and cosplay crowds to film buffs. But that’s not the only way to get your niche subculture fix. Here are five more California festivals to check out.

Anime Expo

Silicon Valley Comic Con

J-Pop Summit

Sinister Creature Con

Finding Bigfoot Festival

Japanese pop culture and anime are the focus of this expo, which draws 100,000 people to downtown Los Angeles each July. Whether you’re channeling Kakashi Hatake or old-school Sailor Moon, don’t fret about wear and tear. This is the nation’s largest anime festival, and its AX Cosplay Repair booth is famous among anime devotees. July 5-8 at the Los Angeles Convention Center; www.anime-expo. org

Why should San Diego have all the fun? Silicon Valley holds the state’s greatest concentration of nerds, after all. It’s only natural that Steve Wozniak and friends host their own epic version each April, with guest appearances by everyone from Stan Lee to David Tennant (Dr. Who), Martha Higareda (“Altered Carbon”), and Nichelle Nichols (“Star Trek”).

It may have started in San Francisco’s Japantown, but this pop-culture celebration of the newest J-Pop music, tech, games, anime, fashion and food soon outgrew the venue. Now it’s held at Fort Mason, complete with ramen and sake summits and a Japanese technology immersion playground that lets guests play with advanced VR/AR, games, apps and, last July, interactive Beach Ball Synth.

If you prefer tentacled, horned beasts to space aliens and Marvel heroes, Sacramento’s salute to the horror genre and its creators may be just your cup of liquefied brimstone. Headliners for this year’s convention, June 16-17, include Linda Blair (“The Exorcist”), Michael Berryman (“The Hills Have Eyes,” “X Files”) and make-up artist Michelle MoreGore. www.

Long before there was a film industry to concoct scary monsters, there was Bigfoot. And it’s only fitting that Humboldt County hosts a Bigfoot fest. This is, after all, where the infamous 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film was shot, and it’s where Bigfoot was given his famous name. Each year, the town of Willow Creek holds a Bigfoot parade on Highway 299 — the Bigfoot Scenic Byway, of course — followed by a festival at Veterans Park. Cosplay is encouraged at the 2018 festivities planned for Sept. 1. event/bigfoot-days.




irror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Or at least the oddest? Along with its abundance of country fairs and urban fests, California is also home to some rather unexpected attractions, from Long Beach’s Pirate Invasion and Mermaid Festival (June 30-July 1) to Columbia’s Poison Oak Show (Sept. 29), which is just like a flower show. But with poison oak. And prizes for best rash. Here are seven distinctly quirky parades and races: — JACKIE BURRELL



French waiters always manage to look impeccable as they swan around a dining room, holding a tray of bottles and glasses aloft. C’est vrai! Now imagine them madly hotfooting it through downtown Sacramento on a hot summer day. Mais oui! The Bastille Day Race will be July 14.

Big Bear Lake recaptures its pioneer past with an Old Miners Days celebration each summer that includes a chili cookoff, a Fawnskin Doo Dah Parade — billed as the world’s shortest parade — and outhouse races, where the only thing more important than speed is snazzy outhouse decor. It’s not the only town with an outhouse race. Porterville, 50 miles north of Bakersfield, has one, too.

Bastille Day Waiters Race, Sacramento

Outhouse Races, Big Bear Lake


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Kinetic Grand Championship Race, Arcata Amphibious monsters and steampunk sharks? For nearly 50 years, this North Coast race has unleashed the creative (and truly bonkers) genius of local artists and makers, who craft elaborate, humanpowered vehicles — part sculpture, part Mad Max — to race through streets, sand, mud and waves during the threeday, 40-mile event held every Memorial Day weekend. (You may have missed this year’s race, but Eureka’s new Kinetic Museum is open every weekend.)



This procession of elaborately adorned golf carts has been a Palm Desert tradition since the early 1960s, when the parade was held in the middle of summer. These days, the parade is an October tradition — and themes range from Area 51 to last year’s “desert safari.” This year’s parade will be Oct. 28.

The big Olive Festival in Corning, which is 30 miles from Chico, includes all the olive oil tastings and foodie events you might imagine, plus a Corning Does It Bedder race that sends elaborately painted beds racing down the main drag on bicycle tires. Last year’s event was held in October.

Golf Cart Parade, Palm Desert

Bed Races, Corning


Butter & Egg Days Parade, Petaluma This century-old Sonoma County festival salutes the city’s agricultural past with an April parade that includes what may be the most adorable component ever: The Cutest Little Chick Contest. Parents dress up their babies and tots in chicken suits. Last year’s winner, a 21-month-old dressed in fluffy white feathers, rode in a “Petaluma Incubator” float.


Doo Dah Parade, Pasadena

The flamboyant 40-year-old Doo Dah is the polar opposite of the Rose Parade. Instead of rose-adorned floats, this one gets its kicks on the original Route 66 with zany costumed participants and crazy art cars and floats. Among them: the BBQ & Hibachi Marching Grill Team, the Men of Leisure Synchronized Nap Team and a pink Cadillac convertible that was converted into a driveable swimming pool. Last year’s parade was held in November.



Summer food festivals celebrate everything from zucchini to watermelon, mushrooms, prickly pear, oysters in a half shell , and more.

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IMAGINATION There is a food festival for pretty much every mainstream

edible item on the planet and a few oddities, as well. You can celebrate your zuke zealotry at Hayward’s Zucchini Festival and your carnitas cravings at Santa Cruz’s Tequila and Taco bash in August or express your fungi fandom at Mendocino’s Mushroom, Beer and Wine Festival in November. In short, there’s a foodie extravaganza pretty much every month year-round, from Arcata’s big Oyster Festival in June to the watermelon-centric Slice of Chico in July. Here are three food festival genres worth a delicious peek.






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orty years ago, no one had ever heard of garlic-flavored ice cream. Today, garlic-flavored everything is a given — as are walking bulbs of garlic, a pyrotechnic alley of giant flaming saute pans and a three-day garlic throwdown — thanks to the Gilroy Garlic Festival, which will celebrate a landmark anniversary July 27-29 this year. Launched in 1979, the event is nowhere close to being one of the state’s oldest food festivals (Southern California’s National Orange Show started in 1911, author Rita Gennis wrote in “The California Food Festivals Cookbook”), but you’d be hard-pressed to find one that has garnered such worldwide fame. Or infamy, depending on how you feel about the stinking rose. Oranges may have seemed exotic a century ago, when San Bernardino’s civic leaders decided to promote their crop, but citrus quickly went mainstream. Garlic’s reputation, on the other hand, persisted — like its odoriferous qualities after a meal. For decades, the bulb was considered an esoteric ingredient, one that defined the region’s Italian immigrants and Gilroy’s agricultural industry. That view became a national one after humorist Will Rogers wrote famously that Gilroy was “the only town in America where you can marinate a steak by hanging it on the clothesline.” He knew; he’d dined and stayed at the local Milias Hotel in 1934. Today, the Milias restaurant still proudly operates the bar where Rogers sat, and there are plenty of garlicky touches on the menu. But it wasn’t until the late 1970s, when the late Rudy Melone, a college administrator, read about a small French town proclaiming itself the garlic capital of the world that community leaders decided to set everyone straight about Gilroy’s aromatic contributions. Melone enlisted grower Don

Opposite page: Cooks prepare garlicky delights. Top, garlic french fries are one of the festival favorites. Above, braids of the stinking rose decorate a vendor’s booth.

Christopher of Christopher Ranch to supply the garlic and the late Val Filice, a farmer and chef, to create the Gourmet Alley recipes. They planned for a modest first festival, printing only 5,000 tickets, according to the event history. But more than 15,000 people showed up. Just a few years later, attendance surpassed more than 100,000, a figure that holds today. (In fact, the Guinness Book of World Records has cemented Gilroy’s status as the world’s biggest garlic festival draw. Take that, little French town!) By 1986, festivalgoers from afar were filling local motel rooms, and the festival had even attracted the notice of National Geographic. But the magazine’s article misplaced the event, saying it was in the San Joaquin Valley. The staff writer called to apologize:

“I guess we can expect a lot of irate mail from Gilroy.” Then-city administrator Jay Baksa responded, “We’ve been in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and a lot of travel publications. So I’d say, ‘Keep writing about us, and sooner or later, your nose will lead you to the South Santa Clara Valley.’” Festival attendees, once through the gates of Christmas Hill Park, typically find their noses leading them directly to Gourmet Alley, where the chefs torch their saute pans in spectacular fashion for admiring and hungry crowds. The show’s as much of a must-see as any musical act on the schedule. Worried you won’t get your money’s worth in cloves? Here, the unofficial motto has always been, “There’s no such thing as too much garlic.”

From the beginning, scampi, calamari, pasta con pesto and pepper-steak sandwiches dominated the menu, with Filice even sending drivers that first year to Monterey to buy more calamari and prawns. They’re all still big sellers, along with newcomers like garlic french fries. Outside Gourmet Alley, vendors hawk everything from garlic kettle korn to garlic oysters to braids of garlic for home cooking. And on a 100-degree day, few people pass up a sample cone of garlic ice cream. Food Network-style culinary competitions and celebrity chef appearances (last year it was Giada De Laurentiis) have joined the festival’s long-held contests for garlicky recipes and Miss Gilroy Garlic. A highlight since year one, the Great Garlic Cook-Off has evolved, as recipes from amateur cooks have grown more sophisticated. Garlic soup and bruschetta were winners in the early 1980s; by this decade, home cooks were taking home cash prizes and bragging rights for Smoky Salsa Roja Shrimp with Roasted Garlic Cotija Grits (2017) and Garlic Goat Cheese Bacon Souffle with Creamy Garlic Mustard Sauce (2016). And Gilroy’s success has spawned other food festivals. About 30 years ago, Yuba City looked south for inspiration after receiving a last-place ranking in a Rand McNally analysis. The result was an annual crop party called the California Prune Festival, later renamed the California Dried Plum Festival. Alas, that festival ended in 2002. Just didn’t have the staying power of garlic. Details: The 2018 Gilroy Garlic Festival runs from July 27-29. It’s a volunteer-staffed event, with ticket proceeds benefiting local schools and nonprofits. (More than $11.5 million has been raised since 1979.) Find the festival schedule and ticket info at www.



Bacon fest, bacon camp — it’s a bacon extravaganza


t’s the B in your BLT. The streaky rashers of brunch. The raison d’être of breakfast. Now bacon has moved beyond the morning realm and sandwich world to take over entire arenas. That’s not hyperbole. Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium hosted a Bacon and Beer Classic earlier this year, with bacon-centric food booths, 40 breweries and activities, including a Hormel bacon-eating contest. There were pork belly nachos from Loma Brewing; draft-beer marshmallows topped with chocolate, bacon, pretzels and potato chips from 240 Sweet; and “Elvis the Fat Years” ice cream from the folks at San Francisco’s Humphry Slocombe. Banana ice cream with bacon-peanut brittle. You even had to ask? Sacramento’s February Baconfest, held at venues across town and named one of the world’s best food festivals by CNN Travel, includes everything from bacon milkshakes and bacon doughnuts to a ramen party (with bacon, of course) and a best-chef bacon competition. Also: Death Muffins, a breakfast sandwich creation at Samuel Horne’s Tavern in Folsom that fills an English muffin with an over-easy egg, cheddar cheese, grape jelly and a bacon-stuffed pork sausage patty wrapped in bacon. And also: A Kevin Bacon Soundtrack Tribute Show, featuring music from the actor’s films, including “Baconloose.” Er, “Footloose.” That’s just the tip of the porky iceberg. The last year has brought bacon festivals to Oakland, Long

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Bacon festivals serve up everything fromm grilled bacon wrapped scallops to bacon bouquets

Beach, San Diego and Lathrop, where the two days of festivities had Food Network stars presiding over “Bacon Alley” stages, a bacon bar, food booths and pig races. (Although the thought of nibbling bacon within the little oinkers’ view ... Let’s just say, we wouldn’t want to be the entertainment at a cannibal cook-out.) Don’t let those feelings of FOMO-OPD — fear of missing out on porky deliciousness — overcome you. You can still live high on the hog this summer and fall. The town of Kelseyville, near Clear Lake, is hosting its second annual Beer, Wine & Swine Bacon Fest ( from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 17, complete with chef competitions, people’s choice awards, live music and local wine and beer. You can go hog wild at the Monterey Bacon Fest — 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Aug. 11-12 at the county fairgrounds (https://www.facebook. com/MontereyBaconFest/). Or head for Bakersfield’s philanthropic Bacon and Craft Beer Fest (, 1-5 p.m. Nov. 10. Oorganizers say ticket-holders will have access to 25 bacon-centric food booths serving up unlimited samples of bacon-inspired dishes, as well as unlimited samples from scores of breweries and — so sorry, we can’t focus when the words “unlimited” and “bacon” are in the same sentence. And if that’s not enough bacon for you, there’s a five-day Bacon Camp in Ann Arbor, Michigan. One can only dream.



Grape stomping in Paso S TO R Y B Y J E S S I CA YA D E G A R A N

Wine regions are popping up all around California but none faster than this Central Coast area



he aroma of ripe grapes wafts through Paso Robles’ Opolo winery and its vineyards, dotted with leaves in rusty shades of crimson, yellow and orange. Outside the tasting room, a crowd dances to live music, while foodies pile their plates high with whole roasted lamb, a perfect match for Opolo’s fruity flagship Mountain Zinfandel. And depending on the specific Harvest Wine Weekend lineup, there’s still plenty of time to explore more. Time to hit the 17,000 square feet of underground wine caves at Eberle Winery, where wood-fired pizzas and chardonnay await. Or head for a Justin dinner from the winery’s award-winning culinary team — and then stomp barefooted in a barrel of grapes. It’s just ceremonial, of course, but unbelievably fun. Wine festivals are an essential California experience, and harvest is the most magical time to attend one, especially in Paso Robles, a region in San Luis Obispo County known for its wide variety of grape varietals, its historic downtown and proximity to iconic Hearst Castle and the Pacific Ocean. The Paso Robles Harvest Wine Weekend is particularly accessible because it is family friendly

There are more than 200 wineries in Paso Robles. Alta Colina’s Paso Robles hilltop vineyards glow at sunrise. The four-yearold Vina Robles Amphitheatre combines a stateof-the-art outdoor amphitheater with Mission-inspired architecture and Paso Robles wine. The restaurant and patio at Paso Robles’ Niner Wine Estates look out over the winery’s iconic Heart Hill Vineyard.

(dog-friendly, too), and it takes place during the third weekend in October, after the frenzy of summer tourism has died down. During this time, most of the grapes have been picked and winery crews are busy de-stemming, crushing and fermenting the grapes into wine. The promise of a new vintage creates an unmistakable buzz as each winery hosts a unique celebration of crush. Some 130 separate events happen all around the Paso Robles wine region, from ceremonial grape stomps and educational crush pad tours to vineyard excursions, restaurant wine pairings and barrel tastings. If you’re looking for something more laid back, there are plenty of barbecues, dinners, live music events, open houses and even cupcake-wine pairings. And when you need a break from tasting wine and eating great food, you can explore a wide variety of other activities in Paso Robles, from golf and cycling to hiking, olive oil tasting and distillery tours. Details: The Paso Robles Harvest Wine Weekend takes place Oct. 19-21 at more than 100 wineries in and around Paso Robles. For more information on the festival and the region, visit




E D I S ES A S L E ER V k, s u d to n w a s t d i a m w o Fr ea r u t n adve



The Shockwave is one of four rollercoasters at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Dip your toes in the chilly surf, then sample the irresistible rides


irst comes the scary plunge into darkness. That’s when the shrieks begin to echo all across the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Then, the incredible adrenaline rush delivered by the Giant Dipper roller coaster heightens as your train bolts from a tunnel and clickety-clacks its way skyward. There’s a merciful moment of calm — or is that dread? — as you take in an irresistible view of Monterey Bay. But the next thing you know — oooohhhmmmyyyygaawwdddd! — you’re hurtling 65 feet downward before twisting, turning and rattling around a half mile of wooden track as your heart slams against the walls of your chest. Ah, yes, the Giant Dipper. It’s a thrill you never outgrow. Then again, you really could say that about the entire Santa Cruz boardwalk experience. It’s a place that caters to all ages — a place where cherished memories of summers past mingle comfortably with modern, selfie-ready pleasures. It’s a summer-long festival of nostalgia and seaside treats. Of course, it helps that the boardwalk isn’t in a race to reinvent the proverbial wheel. Sure, there are the occasional cosmetic upgrades and new, scream-inducing rides (Dig the Typhoon!). But so much of this classic seaside amusement park — and its approach to fun in the sun — remains as timeless as a harmony from the Beach Boys. The Giant Dipper? It opened in 1924. The beloved Looff Carousel, with its 73 hand-carved wooden horses? It’s been around since Taft was president. Yes, you can

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still stuff your face with salt-water taffy from Marini’s Candies just like your grandma did in the early 1900s. And you can still challenge your friends to a fierce, low-tech game of Skee-Ball. For some Bay Area residents, the boardwalk is often a commuter experience. You make an early drive up snaky Highway 17, dip your toes into the chilly surf, cram in as many rides as you can, sample a few wet-and-gooey treats, and then head back home in weary contentment. But if there’s some slack in your schedule, it’s always better to hunker down for a few days to take in the boardwalk and surrounding area. That allows you time to savor a laid-back movie night on the beach, or a free Friday concert during the festive summer season. (Yes, Papa Doo Run Run is back this summer. We told you this place is timeless.) Some of us have reached an age where even the boardwalk’s most simple diversions are enough to put us in a happy mood. For example, we can grab a beer and a corn dog (extra mustard, please) and check out the spirited volleyball matches going on in the sand just beyond the casino arcade. Or we can choose to just gaze at the ocean and not ponder anything deeper than the leafy green seaweed. It’s best, of course, to get to the boardwalk early — when the brisk morning air is invigorating — to observe the amusement park as it slowly yawns to life. These are the quiet hours, when the most emphatic sounds are the yelps and grunts of the lazy sea lions, congregating along the wharf. The swirl of humanity soon

So much of this classic seaside amusement park — and its approach to fun in the sun — remains as timeless as Beach Boys’ harmony. You can choose to cruise the boardwalk and hop on one of the many rides or stroll the sands below.

IF YOU GO Rides at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk open at 11 a.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. weekends. The summer’s free beach concerts are Friday nights, and free movie screenings are on Wednesdays from mid-June through August. 400 Beach St, Santa Cruz;

a bench like a barnacle until the evening hours, when the boardwalk is all lit up like a sparkling Christmas tree. Ah, but then there’s this different voice whispering in your other ear, saying that it’s time to get up and get moving. That you’ve used up your chill-out allotment — that there are shrieks in the salty air, and the Giant Dipper is calling.


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arrives, and that’s when people-watching becomes a real kick. You see pint-size children, downright giddy with excitement. Young teen couples holding hands in anticipation of their first boardwalk date without a chaperone. Valiant dads and moms loaded down with ice chests, umbrellas, towels, beach balls and tents. Smiling grandparents who recall bringing their kids here back in the day. It all makes for one colorful tapestry of shapes, sizes, ages and backgrounds. Something inside tells you that you could rest your bones here for hours — all dreamy-eyed and satisfied — while absorbing the sights, sounds and scents (hmm, do I detect funnel cake?). Yes, you could even weld yourself to

Anatomy of a Funnel Cake


ormer Walt Disney Company pastry chef and blue-ribbon judge George Geary has a penchant for classic fair food, especially the funnel cakes he remembers from childhood days. “My summers were on the Santa Cruz boardwalk!” says Geary, author of “Fair Foods.” “Funnel cake at the fair is as American as the Ferris wheel.” A funnel cake begins with batter drizzled — or funneled — into sizzling oil and fried until golden. It’s dusted with powdered sugar, then garnished with whipped cream and fruit or syrup. Of course, in the hands of a pastry chef, funnel cake becomes a somewhat elevated affair. “My batter is lighter and full of flavor,” Geary says. He uses pâte à choux, the simple, egg-rich batter used for eclairs and airy cream puffs, as his dough, then tops it with macerated fresh berries, not sticky sweet syrup. But, he says, “the oil is the most important thing. Most vendors at fairs will let the oil go a few days and use cottonseed or other oils. When you make the homemade version, use fresh canola.” Here’s how it’s done:

Funnel Cake with Berries Makes 6 to 10 funnel cakes Ingredients: 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces 1 cup cool water ½ teaspoon sea salt ½ teaspoon granulated sugar 1½ cups allpurpose flour 3 large eggs plus 2 large egg whites Canola oil, for frying Powdered sugar, for dusting Berry topping: 1 quart fresh berries, sliced ½ cup granulated sugar Pinch sea salt

Directions: In a medium saucepan, combine butter, water, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the flour. Return the pan to low heat and cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes to cook the flour slightly and rid the mixture of any starchy, floury taste. Place the dough in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until most of the steam has subsided, then add the eggs and egg whites one at a time, beating until each is incorporated before adding the next. Beat until a smooth batter forms. Meanwhile, combine the berry topping ingredients — sliced berries, sugar and a pinch of salt — in a bowl. Let stand for 30 minutes before serving. Pour 3 inches of oil into a stockpot and heat to 350 degrees. Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a ¼-inch or smaller diameter round tip. Holding the pastry bag over the hot oil, squeeze the batter into the hot oil in a zigzag or spiral shape, frying no more than 1 large or 2 smaller funnel cakes at a time. Fry the cakes until puffed and golden — they will triple in size — about 3 to 5 minutes, flipping every 30 seconds or so. Drain the cakes on a rack and cool slightly, then sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with berry topping.

from America’s State & County Fairs” (Santa Monica Press, 2017)

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A funnel cake begins with batter drizzled — or funneled — into sizzling oil and fried until golden. Then it’s finished with powdered sugar and your choice of toppings.


— George Geary, “Fair Foods: The Most Popular and Offbeat Recipes

Yuima Kasai flies her version while surrounded by giant octopus kites at the Berkeley Kite Festival. This year’s festival is July 28-29 at Cesar E. Chavez Park at the marina.



Above, bird lovers flock from all over to catch a glimpse of a sandhill crane in the Sacramento Delta each year.

California’s coastline and balmy weather turn life here into one glorious celebration, an endless series of festivals aimed at kite flyers, bird watchers and lovers of creatures aquatic. Here are five outdoorsy festivals to mark on your calendar:

Sun and Sea Festival

Berkeley Kite Festival

Sandhill Crane Festival

Mendocino Coast Whale Festival

Salmon Festival

Sandy six-foot tall castles, giant sharks and life-size Imperial stormtroopers have invaded the shores of Imperial Beach, the sand-sculpting capital near San Diego, where the Sun and Sea Festival has been a tradition for the last 50-plus years. Sand sculpting is such a big deal here, Imperial Beach was the site of the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition, the largest competition of its kind, from 1980 to 2011. Experience a bit of that at this year’s fest, July 13-14. sunandseafestival. com

Giant whales, squid and other tentacled creatures take to the skies during this grand kite festival that includes enormous creature kites, team kite-flying challenges and free kite-making lessons at the Berkeley Marina. This year’s festival will be July 28-29 at Cesar E. Chavez Park. www.

Global migration routes bring these majestic cranes to the Sacramento Delta each fall, at the end of a long journey from as far away as Siberia. As the massive flocks descend into the wetlands near Lodi, bird lovers flock, too, eager for a glimpse of the creatures. And for the last 21 years, Lodi’s Sandhill Crane Festival has celebrated the return of the cranes in early November with small group tours, bird talks and a variety of special events.

Fort Bragg, Mendocino and Little River turn each March into one long, happy cetacean celebration, complete with whale-watching hikes and outings, chowder fests and plenty of wine and beer events. Mendocino Headlands State Park hosts “Whale Tales” all month; MacKerricher State Park docents lead Whale Walks, and the Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park docents help visitors spot flukes from this prime whale-watching spot. mendocinocoast. com/whale-home

Some 25,000 people flock to the town of Oroville each September to celebrate the return of thousands of Chinook salmon, heading up the Feather River on their return from the ocean. This Butte County festival features plenty of fishrelated fun, including environmental education stations, live music, tours of the Feather River Fish Hatchery and, of course, salmon tastings. This year’s festival will be Sept. 22. www.orovillechamber. com/salmon-festival/


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Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days always opens with a series of elaborate and colorful performances. FRITZ OLENBERGER — VISIT SANTA BARBARA

Fiesta! Old Spanish Days a blend of traditions S TO RY BY DA N I E L J I M E N E Z


Nearly a century of fiesta celebrations


t may seem hard to believe, but there was a time when Santa Barbara had trouble convincing tourists to come to town. Today, California’s Mediterranean stand-in is known as a yearround playground of sparkling beaches, upscale shops and fine dining, with an ever-increasing number of celebrities making it their chosen weekend getaway from L.A. But in the 1920s, it was mostly a winter getaway – and crowds had plenty of other options if they wanted to plan a summer vacation. You can thank those summer non-crowds for one of California’s most colorful civic parties. They call it “Old Spanish Days” formally and “Fiesta” (party in Spanish) informally, but either way, it means a nearly week-long celebration of Santa Barbara’s heritage, blending Spanish and Mexican traditions. It’s music and dance, it’s parades and rodeo, it’s food and drink. It’s Fiesta. (And if you grew up in the Santa Barbara area, like I did, sometimes it’s “Ugh. It’s Fiesta.” But that’s not unique to Fiesta; if you grew up in the town with the Grapefruit Festival, you learn to scoff at the Grapefruit Festival. And then you go to it, and you remember that actually, it’s kind of fun.) “Fiesta has become a source for sharing joy, happiness and love of


El Desfile Historico, the Fiesta Historical Parade, right, takes to the streets of downtown Santa Barbara during Old Spanish Days each summer.

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Opposite: Carnival rides and dazzling lights add to the colorful mercado scene.


our community as we celebrate a 94-year-old tradition of honoring our past while we make the steady march into our future,” Denise Sanford, this year’s Old Spanish Days Presidenta, said in her annual proclamation. What the festival has become, in spite of its name, is a celebration both of Santa Barbara’s Spanish heritage and of Mexican culture, putting the two side-byside in many public events. (We will save discussions of the historical implications of colonialism for another day.) The history of Fiesta isn’t especially complicated: According to the Old Spanish Days website, a group of the town’s business owners were looking for a way to boost summer tourism in the 1920s. The reopening of the historic Lobero Theatre after a major remodeling offered a chance for a civic celebration – and the hook that those business owners hoped to use to attract visitors for the summer season. In 1924, city and business leaders began planning that celebration, a fiesta, in a nod to the Spaniards who had built the first mission in Santa Barbara. It would include a parade, a rodeo, a big celebration at the rebuilt theater and more. Mayor Charles Andrea proclaimed that the festival would be known as “Old Spanish Days,” and a tradition was born. The following year, Santa Barbara was devastated by a magnitude 6.8 earthquake in June. Much of the city’s downtown was destroyed; the Mission, already rebuilt after an 1812 earthquake, was heavily damaged. In a bit of divine inspiration, the damage to the Mission led

to one of the longest-running Fiesta traditions: In 1926, Fiesta resumed after the earthquake with a “sunset service” at the Mission. Now, La Fiesta Pequeña is the official kick-off of the festival, drawing big crowds for a sunset picnic in front of the Mission, as musicians and dancers perform on the building’s steps. The earthquake also had another effect: After much of the city’s downtown was destroyed, city officials pushed for architectural standards that promoted a common look. To this day, Santa Barbara’s signature look is heavily Mediterranean-inspired, with Spanish tile highlights and roofing a very common sight downtown. Santa Barbara County has a rich agricultural history, and so a historical festival must include a rodeo: Both the Professional Bull Riders and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association hold events at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. Open-air markets feature Spanish and Mexican foods, crafts and gifts and live entertainment. El Desfile de los Niños (the Children’s Parade) is always a hit; who doesn’t want to see large groups of adorable children in colorful costumes, ambling down

IF YOU GO Old Spanish Days runs from Aug. 1-5, 2018 at locations throughout Santa Barbara. Find more information at

the street while adults try to keep them going in the right direction? There are multiple events featuring performances of traditional music and dance, as well. Finally, there’s the one thing you won’t find mentioned in all the publicity materials for Old Spanish Days: the nightlife. If you’re still down for adventure after all the pageantry of the daytime and evening events, head to State Street, where every single bar and club will be jumping. Back when he used to run basketball camps at UC Santa Barbara, Michael Jordan was known to occasionally drop by O’Malley’s and bartend, just for kicks. If the greatest player in NBA history can’t resist Old Spanish Days, who are you to say no?


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plenty of other things to do that offer glimpses not just of the past, but the present and future. Here are three to explore.

Old Mission Santa Barbara This city’s museum roster runs the full gamut, from aquatic to artistic and historic. But any look to the city’s past starts at the Queen of the Missions, founded in 1786 by Spanish missionaries and now a Santa Barbara icon. Take a docent-led or self-guided tour of the mission, its museum and historical gardens. Details: Open daily at 2201 Laguna St., Santa Barbara;

MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation Santa Barbara’s year-old kid-friendly science museum nestles next to the city’s arty (and winery-filled) Funk Zone. Grab the kids and you, too, can learn about cinema and sound in a Foley studio, take an innovation workshop and dabble in tunes from inside a giant guitar (above). Details: Open daily at 125 State St.;

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden This 78-acre garden offers 5 miles of trails that wind from wildflower meadows to redwood groves, arroyos and canyon environments, showcasing more than a thousand native plants along the way. Admission is $12, but SBBG enjoys reciprocal membership benefits with the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, Ruth Bancroft Garden and more. Details: 1212 Mission Canyon Road, Santa Barbara; JASON RICK — MOXI


Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days reimagine days long gone, but the city brims with

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Russian House #1 makes a fine spot to stop for a bite after touring and hiking Fort Ross State Historic Park. A giant Paul Bunyan greets visitors at the entrance of the Trees of Mystery attraction in Klamath off Highway 101. A four-day festival pays homage to the mythical lumberjack.



California’s eclectic festival lineup each year includes celebrations of the history, culture and heritage of its denizens. Some, like Santa Barbara’s Fiesta, offer idyllic depictions. Others immerse visitors in living history experiences.

Fort Ross Festival During the 19th century, Russians and Native Americans lived and worked side by side at this Sonoma coast fort, which was built in 1812 by the Russian tsar’s fur traders. Today it’s a State Historic Park and the site of a cultural celebration every summer — July 28 this year — that includes Kashia Pomo ceremonial dancing, Americana swing music and traditional Russian performances. Enjoy historic crafts and grab a bite from a lineup of decidedly 21st-century food trucks. www.fortross. org

Queen Mary Scottish Festival Built on the banks of the River Clyde more than 75 years ago, the Queen Mary and the Long Beach docks and lawns adjacent are an apt venue for the grand Scottish festivities held each February. Yes, there will be haggis. Also: a grand parade of clans and bands, a Robert Burns Supper aboard ship and Highland dancing and games, including caber tossing and hammer throwing.

The Gatsby Festival

Paul Bunyan Days

Gold Rush Days

The Roaring ‘20s come to life at Lake Tahoe’s Tallac Historic Site for two days in August each year, complete with a Gatsby afternoon tea, historical talks, guided tours, vintage cars, children’s games from the 1920s and modern-day jazz that sounds like an echo of Gatsby’s day. This summer’s festival will be Aug. 11-12. www.

Mendocino County’s family-friendly homage to the mythical lumberjack fills four festive days with activities, including a loggers’ show, which draws modern-day lumberjacks from across Mendocino, Humboldt, Lake and Sonoma counties to vie for cash prizes in logging skills, including axe throwing, pole climbing and Jack and Jill handsaws. There’s a parade, too, a fireman’s ball and a beer, bison and bluegrass bash in Fort Bragg. Bunyan and his famous blue ox come to town Aug. 31-Sept. 4.

The Columbia State Historic Park’s monthly living-history days immerse visitors in the 1849 experience, offering a chance to pan for gold, chat with docents in period attire and explore usually closed homes and shops in this perfectly preserved 19th-century town. Gold Rush Days here and at Marshall Gold Discovery Park in Coloma are held on the second Saturday of every month.


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Revelry S TO R Y B Y A N G E L A H I L L

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Prithee, good sir, which way to the Renaissance Faire?


n my maiden foray into the Renaissance Faire, a decade-plus past, the scene was one of mirth, merriment, jesters, jousters and — in my “I’m much too cool for this” opinion – nerds. Oh, those silly nerds — my spouse chief among them — were being foolish and corny and embarrassing in their jerkins and doublets and bodices and overblown Olde English accents with a “th” added to every verb: “Doth thou taketh mead in thy cup, m’lady?” They were gnawing on turkey legs with wild abandon, dancing jigs to frolic-inducing pipe-and-fiddle tunes and braiding flowers into their hair. They were bidding everyone “Good morrow,” peddling handicrafts, blowing glass and forging swords. They were ringing bells, shouting “Huzzah!” and “God save the Queen!” and, well, having such a rollicking-eth, frolicking-eth good time ... I soon dropped my too-cool facade and joined their ranks. As we speak, my closet hath gotten pretty full of suitable garb for various moods — a black maiden’s dress when feeling flirty, a captain’s coat for my tough pirate-chick look and various pouches, belts and baldrics. (Though, to this day, I draw the line at uttering the word “huzzah” under any circumstances.)

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Yes, we’re officially “rennies” and proud. And we’ll be going again this year, likely to the Northern California Renaissance Faire, held each fall under the hot sun and oak trees of Hollister’s Casa de Fruta. Ren fairs continue to be phenomenally popular, advancing along the decades with the entitled confidence of the queen’s yeomen of the guard marching through a peasant-populated village. As the origin tale goes, California’s Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire began in 1963 in Southern California, when Los Angeles school teacher Phyllis Patterson and her art-director husband, Ron, held a small Renaissance-themed gathering at their home as a class project. The small gathering soon grew into a public “living history” event and drew 8,000 on its inaugural weekend, according to the event’s website. It was cosplay before there was cosplay, and it quickly swelled into a nationwide phenomenon with off-shoots and spin-offs like pirate fests and smaller fairs throughout the year, from Lake Tahoe’s Valhalla Renaissance Faire to the San Jose Renaissance & Fantasy Faire. Combined, California’s ren fairs draw hundreds of thousands of people each year. And hard as a newbie may try to remain aloof, there’s something about the immersive experience, the illusion of being in another realm, unencumbered by work-aday texts, Slacks and Snapchats. (Fear ye not, you can still tuck a

pork chop on a stick and just sit back and enjoy the atmosphere, the free music and stage shows and the unbridled joy. I F YO U G O

The fairs: The Northern California Renaissance Faire runs from mid-September to mid-October at Casa de Fruta, 10031 Highway 152 in Hollister; www. Essential tips: Privies are restrooms. Actually, they’re porta-potties, and tricky to maneuver when clad in a gown or a belt dangling cups, swords and knives. While most large events these days ban any type of weapons, period knives and swords are welcome here as long as they’re sheathed and “peace tied” – wrapped at the hilt with a leather strap or a zip tie to discourage bloody battles. If your weapon isn’t tied, they’ll tie it for you at the gate. And be sure to tip the barmaid. Huzzah to the giver!

Previous page, a scene from the jousting program. Left, Fairgoers get into the spirit of the fest at the Northern California Renaissance Faire in Hollister.


smartphone in yer jerkin.) While the main premise is that of an Elizabethan-era town — a market fair laid out mall-style with colorful tents of tradespeople peddling their food and wares — the historical specifics have become a bit fuzzy over the years. Perhaps thanks to all that ale. These days, English nobles, knights, beggars, heralds and merchants — and, of course, serving wenches with burgeoning bosoms — mingle freely with elves, fairies, pirates, hobbits and the occasional Jack Sparrow. Of course, the many “time travelers” clad in modern T-shirts and cargo shorts throw the whole thing off anyway. But try to ignore them. Or get them some garb. No matter what you wear, there’s always fun and frivolity, from the jesters to the jousters. Yes, they have a real jousting arena where knights in 80 pounds of steel armor take a good run at each other with big pointy sticks (Hello, they’re called lances!). Various guilds of performers — from the Town Criers of Saint Blaise to the Mongers of Saint Swithin — roam the streets or tease the crowd with bawdy, but still family-friendly shows. And it’s worth the visit just to shop the wares of jewel-adorned hand mirrors, wood-inlaid boxes, pewter mugs and velvet hats. Be prepared to spend a good bit of yer gold at the fair. Besides the parking and entry fees, nearly every activity – fencing lessons, carousel rides, tarot readings or hair braiding – costs a little something. But it is possible to get by with a couple of cups of cider, a




Left, The Merry Wives of Windsor perform on opening day of a recent Renaissance Pleasure Faire. San Francisco’s Great Dickens festivities add a yule touch.

It’s entirely possible to gallivant from one California Renaissance Faire to another pretty much all year round, with barely a pause to change your doublet or shelve your jerkin. Some fairs skew Celtic, others medieval, and some bring in pirates or fairies or

The original

Lake Tahoe’s Valhalla Renaissance Faire

The Yule version

Some 55 years ago, a Los Angeles schoolteacher and her husband threw a Renaissance-themed party. Today, it’s the Original Southern California Renaissance Faire, held over seven weekends each April and May at Irwindale’s Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area. In addition to all the usual jousting, carousing and performances, SoCal ups the ante with RenQuests, immersive, interactive adventures — a daylong, festival-wide escape room, if you will — that send participants out to decipher clues, solve problems, perform daring tasks and avoid dastardly villains.

This fair takes over Camp Richardson for the first two weekends of June for Elizabethan romps featuring 800 costumed actors, Shakespearean vignettes, four stages of entertainment and, of course, knightly battles. www.

San Francisco’s Great Dickens Christmas Faire advances the fair timeline by a century or three. It’s Victorian, not Elizabethan, and Dickensian, not Shakespearean. But you’ll find all the familiar touches here, from the “huzzahs” and jesters to the delightful warren of old London shops and lanes. And your Renaissance wench, peasant or royal costume will fit right in here. dickensfair. com


elves. Here are three variations on the theme.

Renaissance Faire costumes are usually inspired by the clothingof the Elizabethan period although peasants have more latitude.


So you’re going to a Renaissance fair, and you want to fit in. Whatever shall thee wear?

As you may know, most ren fairs are set during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I with English royals, nobles, knights, ladies, merchants and peasants galore. But there’s a lot of leeway these days, with the addition of fantasy characters from books and movies like “Lord of the Rings” or “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Still, for first timers, it’s best to stick with the general theme. Most fairs have costumerental booths near the event’s front entrance. The Belrose ( booth, for example, offers authentic designs in a range of “classes.” It’s a fixture at California’s big ren fairs, often staffed with a barker calling out, “Be a knight, be a fool! Wear a kilt because it’s cool!” Whether you rent or create your own costume, be advised that royalty – naturally – can get pretty expensive with its fine silks and lace trappings. Clearly, peasant is the easiest way to go, and you can put an outfit together yourself. Get thee to the thrift store! Here are the key elements:

Peasant woman:

Peasant man:


Official guide

Light-colored, blousy peasant-style shirt Flowy skirt in a solid color — dark green, burgundy or blue. Nothing too fancy for paltry peasants! A vest or bodice, ideally with a lace-up front, but buttons will do A leather belt – It’s not just for looks. You’ll want to tie on a small pouch to keep your ID, money and personal items. Peasant women still need lip gloss! A garland of flowers or a muffin-style cap for your hair

A blousy, puffy peasantstyle shirt worn as is, or with a simple, longish vest belted at the waist. You can get away with brown or dark-colored pants, but breeches are the look for the stylish peasant man. They’re puffy knickerlike pants ending just below the knee. Those might be tougher to find in the thrift store, but if you do score some, wear them with long “hosen” (socks).

If you get hooked on this fair, you’ll want to take it a step further and develop a character. Are you a knight, a noble, a merchant, a monger? Then you’ll want some props to carry around with you. Are you a blacksmith? Wear a leather apron and a belt full of tools. A scribe? Don a long black cloak and carry pen and parchment.

For far more detail than you ever knew you wanted, check out the Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire’s costume guide at socal/join-us/costumeguide.




LA FRESCO A transcendent theater experience under the stars




‘Broadway Under the Stars’ makes theater a magical experience



here was the night of the flaming meteor. During a 2012 performance of “Broadway Under the Stars” — staged, as always, in the open-air ruins of the old winery at Jack London State Historic Park in Santa Rosa — Broadway actress Victoria Matlock began to hit the high notes of “Memory,” the dramatic ballad from “Cats.” That’s when the fiery light appeared in the sky and streaked toward the vineyard behind the stage, witnesses recall. The audience gasped. It would be understandable if some thought Jack London himself had been sending a message from beyond the grave. After all, the author and adventurer once owned the winery and the surrounding acres of Sonoma County hills and forest. He lived and worked in the cottage overlooking the winery until his death at age 40 in 1916. And he also penned the famous astral-themed credo about living life to the fullest: “I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. … The function of man is to live, not to exist.” Meteors are not guaranteed at the Transcendence Theatre Company’s Broadway-themed musical reviews this summer. But the moon might make an appearance. And, if it’s not a rare foggy night, you’ll definitely see stars, “both in the night sky and on stage,” as dedicated fan Vickie Soultier says. For the past seven years, the Sonoma-based troupe of entertainment pros has presented what fans call a uniquely entertaining,

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uplifting, only-in-Northern California theatrical experience. Each season consists of four song-anddance reviews of Broadway and pop music favorites. But there’s more to the Transcendence experience than show tunes, and it’s embedded in the company’s mission to always strive, London-like, for moments in life and art beyond the ordinary, explains co-founder and executive director Stephan Stubbins. One way the company has sought to make its art more meaningful is to forge strong bonds with the community. Stubbins and his fellow Transcendence co-founders, Broadway veterans like himself, came to Sonoma on the eve of a critical point in the park’s history. In 2011, the park was among 70 California state parks facing closure due to a state budget crisis. Transcendence members joined hundreds of other Sonoma County volunteers to find ways to keep the park open. The result was “Broadway Under the Stars,” a musical way to raise money for park support. The 2018 season comes at another critical point in local history. In October, deadly wildfires tore through Sonoma and Napa counties. The Nuns fire killed two people, and it destroyed homes in Glen Ellen, including houses in a neighborhood at the base of the park. Transcendence members evacuated their homes, while park volunteers prepared to remove valuable London artifacts from his cottage and from the park’s House of Happy Walls Museum. Ultimately, the fire shifted direction, and the park was spared, but Transcendence members have

IF YOU GO Transcendence Theatre Company’s “Broadway Under the Stars” season consists of four shows: “Stairway to Heaven,” June 15-July 1; “Fantastical Family Night,” July 13-14; “Shall We Dance,” Aug. 3-19; and “Gala Celebration,” Sept. 7-9. Jack London State Park, 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen. Tickets $35-$149. Shows start at 7:30 p.m., but guests can arrive as early as 5 p.m. for al fresco dining and live music. Find details at

in hand or gourmet salads, sandwiches and other fare purchased from the food trucks that line the property. Local beer and wine also are available. (Outside alcohol is prohibited.) Then, it’s showtime. “It’s light when you go into the theater,” says Soultier. “And then it gets darker and darker, and the stars come out, both in the sky and on stage. It’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced before.” That experience might draw on London’s flaming spirit. As Soultier tells it, it certainly fills audiences with the “magnificent glow” London described.

Each season of “Broadway Under the Stars” consists of four song-and-dance reviews of Broadway and pop music favorites at the magnificent Jack London Historic State Park.


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since held benefits and other events to raise money for fire victims and help the community heal. That means the show definitely will go on this summer. As in past seasons, each show’s cast and crew involves Broadway or Hollywood pros, who take up temporary residence in the area for several weeks. They participate in some of the company’s community service events, as well as the theatrics, in a gig that amounts to a fun, as well as artistically fulfilling, Wine Country work vacation. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that these actors, singers and dancers get to perform in an outdoor venue that looks out onto rolling vineyards and 2,463-foot Sonoma Mountain. “Jack London State Park is one of the most magnificent parks in Northern California,” says longtime Sonoma resident and community activist Holly Kyle. She’s been a fan of Transcendence since the company staged its first concert at the winery in 2011. For audiences, the “Broadway Under the Stars” experience starts well before the 7:30 p.m. showtime. The grounds open for picnicking around 5 p.m., with guests arriving with picnic basket

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Sonoma Valley has no shortage of wineries. Ram’s Gate Winery in Sonoma focuses on small-lot chardonnay and pinot noir.

There’s no denying the allure of Jack London State Historic Park and its summery “Broadway Under the Stars” productions. Here are three other things to do while you’re in this part of Sonoma Valley.

Safari adventures

Wine tasting


For a long time, Santa Rosa’s Safari West was something of a hidden treasure. Even some Northern Californians didn’t know about the 400-acre nature preserve with its herds of giraffes, rhinos and zebras and 900 other species, its safari jeep tours and overnight glamping spots. That all changed during last fall’s devastating Wine Country wildfires, when owner Peter Lang singlehandedly saved a thousand animals using tangled garden hoses and his boots to put out the flames threatening the preserve. Now Lang is famous — and Safari West’s wild animals are thriving. Details: 3115 Porter Creek Road, Santa Rosa;

Sonoma Valley brims with wineries. Make a weekend of it, and you can winery hop from Benziger Family Winery, which is practically next door to Jack London State Historic Park, through the charming town of Sonoma — where more than two dozen tasting rooms await — and down to Ram’s Gate Winery to lounge by the vineyards’ edge, wine glass in hand. Ram’s Gate’s new, laid back “Summer at the Pond” runs Friday-Sunday through the summer, offering guests a bucolic spot to play lawn games and sip wine with sweet and savory food pairings from the winery kitchen. Details: Benziger Family Winery, 1883 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen,; Ram’s Gate Winery, 28700 Arnold Drive, Sonoma,

There’s more than Charlie Brown memorabilia at Santa Rosa’s Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, although that’s certainly a major draw, what with its 22-foot tall blackand-white ceramic mural of Lucy famously holding the football for Charlie Brown. Look closely, and you’ll see the mural is made from 3,588 comic strips. The museum also houses Schulz’s workspace, Christo’s wrapped Snoopy dog house and special exhibits. Kids will enjoy it — and adults who grew up on “Peanuts” will love the trip down memory lane Details: 2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa;



One ring-tailed lemur eating a carrot captures the attention of another at Safari West, a hidden treasure, in Santa Rosa.

The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor State Park in Lake Tahoe, left, mixes comedies and tragedies with modern plays or musicals each July and August. The rolling hills of Orinda offer a glorious backdrop for Cal Shakes, above.



Whether it’s the Bard or “Beauty and the Beast,” there’s something magical about theater productions in a sylvan setting, the breeze wafting through the trees as plots unfold. Here are five al fresco theater festivals worth a peek: Woodminster Summer Musicals

Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival

Cal Shakes


Santa Cruz Shakespeare Festival

For more than half a century, Oakland’s 500-acre Joaquin Miller Park has turned into musical-theater central each summer. Surrounded by redwood groves, the park’s Woodminster Amphitheater is the stage for three al fresco musicals performed from July to September with a full orchestra in the pit. Pack a picnic to enjoy before the show, then revel in the setting as Belle rebuffs Gaston one season and Ado Annie cain’t say no the next.

All’s well that ends well — and if it can start and end on the shores of Lake Tahoe, that’s even better. This festival mixes Shakespearean comedies and tragedies with modern plays or musicals each July and August at Sand Harbor State Park. Grab a bite at Shakespeare’s Kitchen or bring a picnic to enjoy before the curtain rises and the sun sets. laketahoeshakespeare. com

The California Shakespeare Theater — or Cal Shakes — stages its summer season from June to September at the Bruns Amphitheater, which is nestled in Orinda’s bucolic hills. The environment often complements what happens on stage, whether it’s the Bay Area’s signature swirling fog dampening the storm-tossed stage of “The Tempest” or the occasional distant mooing of cows during a comic moment. (Psst, if you get cold, the theater has fleecy blankets available.)

High on a hill sang a lonely goatherd — or perhaps Nellie Forbush or Donna and the Dynamos. Mill Valley’s Mount Tamalpais has been a summer theater venue for more than a century, its long run from 1913’s “Abraham and Isaac” to the present day, interrupted only by World War II and a 1924 hoofand-mouth epidemic. The festival takes place over six Sundays in May and June, including a sing-along matinee. www.

Nestled in a eucalyptus grove at DeLaveaga Park, this summer theater experience offers panoramic views of Monterey Bay as well as classic Shakespeare — from “Romeo and Juliet” to “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” depending on the season — and a dash of Fringe-Festival modern. The season runs from July to early September, with reserved seating and “groundling” blanket seating available. www.


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Festivals abound 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Arrrr, matey! Vallejo’s Waterfront Park turns into a pirate encampment, complete with swimming mermaids, colorful sea folk, treasure hunts, costume contests and more each June. This year’s fest runs from June 17. General admission $12, free for kids ages 12 and younger. 298 Mare Island Way, Vallejo; F I LO L I ’ S S U M M E R JA Z Z SERIES:

1:30-4 p.m. Selected Sundays June 17 through Sept. 16. Filoli Historic House and Garden, 86 Canada Road, Woodside. Jazz musicians from Justin Kauflin to Tuck & Patti. Complimentary snacks and beverages. Order a boxed lunch in advance, bring a picnic lunch or visit Quail’s Nest Cafe. $65-$75. jazz/

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2 p.m. Sundays June 17 through August 19. 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard, San Francisco. Featuring performances by R&B/soul sensations Peabo Bryson & Jeffrey Osborne, plus Ziggy Marley, Anoushka Shankar, The Revolution and more, as well as the Festival’s classical partners San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Ballet. Free. www.


Noon-6 p.m. June 23, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. June 24. Civic Center Plaza, San Francisco. 20 stages and venues. $1 donation at gate. Parade June 24 down Market Street.

WO O D I E S O N T H E W H A R F :

10 a.m.-4 p.m. June 23. Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf. More than 200 classic surf wagons (pre-1952 wood-bodied cars), plus music and 3:30 p.m. parade of cars. Free admission.


12:30-5 p.m. July 7. Monterey County Fair & Event Center, 2004 Fairground Road, Monterey. Beer, food and entertainment. $20-$70. H U M B O L DT F O L K L I F E F E S T I VA L :

July 7-14. Blue Lake and Arcata venues. Americana and folk music, dancing and Annie & Mary Day, a family-friendly free event that features multiple bands, food booths in the park, a parade and baseball game.



Left; participaants dance during the anuual Northern California Pirate Festival in Vallejo. Below; The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Main Beach set the background to hundreds of vintage woodie cars at the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf . Right, The LGBT community will descended on Market Street in San Francisco. Far right; A 15-foot-tall T-rex will be at the Stanislaus County Fair. Wanderlust Wellness Festival hosts a pool party at Squaw Valley.

around the state M A RYS V I L L E P E AC H F E ST I VA L : 4-10 p.m. July 20 and 10 a.m.10 p.m. July 21. Historic downtown Marysville. Enjoy live music, arts and crafts and food booths showcasing peaches in all their glorious forms, from peach pie to peach milkshakes, lemonade, taffy and salsa. A R T + S O U L OA K L A N D :


11 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 14. Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, 344 Tully Road, San Jose. Reggae musicians including Katchafire, Sons of Zion, Chaka Demus & Pliers, plus island dance, tattoo showcase, rugby tournament, carnival, food, vendors. Tickets, $45-$150. YO G A I N T H E M O U N TA I N S :


J U R A S S I C- E R A S TO M P :

July 13-22 Nearly life-size dinosaurs will be stomping and roaring at this year’s Stanislaus County Fair. Not to worry, there’s also a less Jurassic children’s activity area, exhibits, live music and other entertainment. Admission is $5-$12, kids 6 and under are free. 900 North Broadway, Turlock;

July 19-22 The Wanderlust Wellness Festival brings yoga, hiking, hooping and wellness workshops to Lake Tahoe’s Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. Try your hand at aerial yoga and stand-up paddleboard yoga, or enjoy live music, farm-to-table dining and a Speakeasy lecture series. Tickets for the festival start at $15. An all-inclusive four-day pass is $1,050. 1960 Squaw Valley Road, Olympic Valley;

Noon-6 p.m. July 28-29. Downtown Oakland. Music, dance, food and family fun. Check website for updates. SA N J O S E R E N A I S SA N C E FA I R E & FA N TA SY F E S T:

Aug. 4-5. Discovery Meadow, 180 Woz Way, San Jose. Pageantry, artisans, food and drink, artisans, games, crafts, music and dance. $8-$16, under 6 free. H AY WA R D Z U C C H I N I F E S T I VA L :

10 a.m.-8 p.m. Aug. 18-19. Kennedy Park, 19501 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward. Zucchini dishes, zucchini-growing contest, live music, arts and crafts, kids town with rides. Admission, $5-$10; kids under 5 free.


8 a.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 19. Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf. Outrigger races, island-style music, Polynesian dancing, vendors and more. Free. Details: B R I D G E F E S T A N D F LY I N G SAU C E R C O N T E S T:

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 19. Old Bridgeville Bridge, Bridgeville. This grand (and quirky) annual celebration brings humans and extraterrestrials together for live music, craft vendors, food and barbecue and a flying saucer contest. Free. PA LO A LTO F E S T I VA L O F THE ARTS:

10 a.m.-6 p.m. Aug. 25-26. University Ave., Palo Alto. About 300 arts booths, 60 Italian street painters for the Italian Street Painting Expo (on Tasso Street), sculpture plaza, children’s art studio, food and beverages. Free. TAC O & T E Q U I L A F E S T I VA L :

11:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Aug. 25-26. Downtown Santa Cruz. Gourmet street tacos, beer, arts and craft vendors, live music and margaritas. Tequila sampling 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Aug. 25 only. $40. Premiere 2-day pass $60. Admission $10.




8 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Sept. 1-2 Enjoy music, dance, food, whiskey-tastings, clan gatherings and the iconic athletic games of Scotland. Yes, we’re talking caber tossing. It’s the Scottish Highland Gathering and Games, at the Alameda County Fairgrounds, 4501 Pleasanton Ave., Pleasanton. Advance tickets, $11-$50. Free for children 11 and under and active military. www. PITTSBURG SEAFOOD & M U S I C F E S T I VA L :

10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sept. 8 and 10:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Sept. 9. Along the Pittsburg Marina. Seafood booths, jet ski races, arts and crafts, amusement rides, rock wall climbing, live entertainment, wine, beer. Free. S O L A N O AV E N U E S T R O L L :

10 a.m.-5 pm. Sept. 9. Along Solano Avenue in Berkeley and Albany. More than a mile of entertainment, food booths, arts and crafts, state of the art mechanical rides. Free. CA P I TO L A A R T & W I N E F E S T I VA L :

10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 8, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 9. Capitola Village, Capitola. Art, wine, music, food and an area for the kids. Free admission. art-and-wine-festival

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Left: James Hepburn and Gwendolyn Elliot, both dressed in mid15th century attire, watch members of the Queen Cavaliers living history group during the 151st Scottish Highland Gathering & Games at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton. Right: Cecile McLorin Salvant performs on stage.

SA N TA C L A R A A R T & W I N E F E S T I VA L :

10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 15 and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept 16. Central Park, Santa Clara. More than 175 art and crafts booths, entertainment, food, beer, wine and children’s activities. Free. www. ALMADEN ART & WINE F E S T I VA L :

10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 16. Almaden Lake Park, corner of Almaden Expressway and Coleman Avenue, San Jose. Food and wine, entertainment, silent auction and children’s zone. LU N A PA R K C H A L K A R T F E S T I VA L :

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 15. Backesto Park, San Jose. Artists, students and chalk enthusiasts create over 250 pieces of art throughout the park’s pathways. Arts and crafts, food trucks and live music. Free. BA R K I N T H E PA R K:

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 15. William Street Park, S. 16th and E. William streets, San Jose. Dog costume and tail wagging contests, demonstrations of dog agility, vendors for humans and dogs. www. BAY A R E A B LU E S F E S T I VA L :

10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 22-23. Downtown, Martinez. Blues music on two stages, food, craft beer and wine, arts and crafts, community booths, kids activities, chalk art. Free.

SAX E S , T- B O N E S A N D JA Z Z : Sept. 22-23. Cecile McLorin Salvant, Wynton Marsalis, Dianne Reeves and other major stars headline this year’s Monterey Jazz Festival, which features some 500 artists performing on eight stages at the Monterey County Fair and Event Center. Tickets $20-$435. 2004 Fairground Road, Monterey; www.montereyjazzfestival. org PAC I F I C C OA S T F O G F E S T:

10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 29-30. Pacifica, along Palmetto Avenue. Parade and marching band competition, live music, sand sculpture demo, 200 arts and crafts booths, food, beverages, plus Family Fun Fest (1-4 p.m. Sept. 30). Free. A R T, W I N E , M U S I C & FA I R Y D O O R WA L K:

5-8 p.m. Oct. 5. Downtown Chico. This festival launches a month-long art walk celebrating local artists. On opening night, visit more than 20 free receptions with wine tastings, refreshments and live music, — JACKIE BURRELL AND LISA HERENDEEN

Cape-flying fanboys and girls from all over the globe invade downtown San Diego every July during Comic-Con, including Danielle Bissonette, 13, as Peridot. BILL WECHTER/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/VIA GETTY IMAGES

Escape with us every Sunday Join us as we Eat, Drink and Play our way across the West Coast. Explore Wine Country destinations, beach towns, hot new restaurants and more in our Sunday food, spirits and travel section.

EatDrinkPlay Read more at (Mercury News) or (East Bay Times)

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Festivity - 2018  

Fabulous fairs and festivals around California

Festivity - 2018  

Fabulous fairs and festivals around California