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Because Missing Out Is Never Fun!

California Strawberry Festival - 05/17/14 - 05/18/14


Breakfast or dessert?  (Correct answer:  It doesn't matter.)

California Strawberry Festival
Oxnard, CA

This festival is jam-packed with all sorts of fruity fun, from the Tart Toss to concert performances to the Build Your Own Strawberry Shortcake tent.  Come for the funnel cake, stay for the strawberry beer and strawberry nachos!

If you like strawberries, and LOVE free vacations, the Berry Best Hat Contest is for you.  Submit your sweet creation and you may win a three day, two night stay at your choice of destinations.  Enter your kids in the Berry Best Dressed Baby Contest and compete for photo packages, scholarships, gift certificates and more.  Not too shabby!

Be sure to take advantage of the Strawberry Express shuttle from various Oxnard locations to avoid the traffic jams.  Like that?  Is anybody reading this??

Santa Cruz Fungus Fair - 01/10/14 - 01/12/14


Are you a fungi, too?

Santa Cruz Fungus Fair
Santa Cruz, CA

The Fungus Fair is another one of those unique Santa Cruz traditions like “kissing banana slugs” or “questioning gravity in highly specific wooded areas”.

Attendees will enjoy lectures by prominent mycologists and herbalists, culinary demonstrations and discussions surrounding current developments in mushroom poisonings.  Handy, right?

The fair is sponsored by the Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz, which holds periodic Mushroom Identification Classes perfect for those idiots who like to separate from their groups and traverse the woods alone with no other means of sustenance or a phone with 4G.  Study carefully!

Cornish Christmas - 12/20/13

Santa?

Cornish Christmas
Grass Valley, CA

A good friend and former Grass Valley native used to attend this event each year, which she jokingly dubbed “Corny Crapness” as a result of the disappearance of her favorite vendor, a bacon biscuit stand.

That does sound disappointing, when you think about it.

Never fear, there remain a number of delights to satisfy the palate such a Cornish pasties and miniature pies; if you’ve left your snowsuit at home and find yourself shivering half to death like one particular ponytailed writer, you’ll find no shortage of hot chocolate and apple cider.  Steaming pulled pork sandwiches can be equally effective.

Strolling along Mills and Main Streets may seem like a journey into the past.  Carolers sing in unison dressed in Victorian garb.  Magicians perform tricks with cards and ropes.  A charming character in a top hat roasts chestnuts on an open fire and sings a particular song lyric ad nauseum.  Numerous other vendors peddle scarves, jams and jellies and homemade soaps.  Were it not for the occasional teenager haphazardly running over the elderly, you’d think you’d been transported to a simpler, gentler time.

Don’t forget to spin the wheel at the Towers Casino booth for your chance to win a blackmatch match play coupon.  This is the 21st century, after all.

San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival - 11/18/13 - 11/24/13

Don't forget to replenish after the 5K!

San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival
San Diego, CA

This event provides a great opportunity to stretch those stomach muscles in time for Thanksgiving.

Now in its 10thyear, the festival is the area’s premiere destination for food and wine aficionados to attend cooking classes and wine tasting seminars, meet chefs and winemakers, and sample morsels from gourmet food companies.  Bid on a celebrity chef luncheon, then watch chefs compete for $50,000 in the Chef of the Fest competition.  Turn the event into a vacation with a Wine Weekend Getaway package including hotel accommodations and VIP experiences.

Crepes, sushi, gourmet chocolates and more can all be yours.  Enjoy an array of international cuisine before hunkering down with (at least) a week of turkey, turkey sandwiches, turkey enchiladas, turkey soup…catch my drift?

Eat Real Festival - 09/27/13 - 09/29/13

Robin Thicke knows you want it.

Eat Real Festival
Oakland, CA

Mobile dining has exploded in the last few years.  Talented chefs with a knack for entrepreneurship are able to cater (get it?) to the masses, and this is a perfect time to market to the average Joe who may be too strapped for cash for a formal dining experience, but is willing to shell out a couple extra bucks to avoid the Taco Bell drive-thru.  Admit it: fresh fish tacos beat a Bellgrande anything 100% of the time.



The Eat Real Festival has enjoyed increasing interest, such that a Los Angeles event was added to meet the demands of Southern Californians.  Dozens of trucks are on hand, serving up everything from drinks to desserts…and that’s not all.  This festival is sheer heaven for those who not only love to eat, but want to learn where their food comes from and how it’s prepared.  You can meet local farmers, watch a butchery contest, witness a master noodle-puller (it’s exactly as interesting as it sounds) or explore pretzel-making. 

Then again, you can skip all the educational crap and have your own progressive breakfast/lunch/dinner hopping from truck to truck, gorging on everything from paella to plachinta to pork buns.  Cash is preferred.  Come prepared!

Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival - 09/14/13 - 09/15/13

Oh, dear lord.
Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival
San Francisco, CA

This event has it all: buttloads of chocolate (obviously), multiple age divisions of their famed ice cream-eating contest, and lots of cardio provided by the requisite dodging of unsupervised children with sticky, fudgy hands.

Purchase your chosen allotment of tickets, then run amuck sampling cookies, hot chocolate, ice cream, truffles and more...the sky's the limit! Festival veterans such as yours truly prepare a la crab feeds and bring Ziploc bags to fill with goodies to enjoy at home.  If the treats make it home, that is.

Once the crowds die down, go back to your favorite booths and thank them personally for all the extra work you'll have to put in at the gym during the coming week.  I'm sure they'll appreciate that.

California State Fair - 07/12/13 - 07/28/13

So many choices!

California State Fair
Sacramento, CA

The State Fair is here, and my colon couldn’t be more excited!

I prep for the State Fair the same way each year, and that preparation includes several days of cardio and weight training in anticipation of a day-long marathon of gorging on sweets and fried delicacies.  What’s on the menu this year?  How about a 24-ounce steak on a 17-inch cow rib (the Big Beef Rib), Chocolate-Covered Corn Dog, or Deep Fried Burger?  And you’ve gotta love any snack served by the brick, specifically their famous Curly Fries.  If you’re hankering for something sweet, a few bucks will get you Spaghetti Ice Cream, Deep-Fried Fruity Pebbles, and a dessert billed as the World’s Largest Gelato Waffle Cone.  Wash it all down with a Mocha Freeze or Italian Soda.

There are plenty of things to see and do while your chewing and attempting to digest a weekend’s worth of calories.  This year’s concert series features 80s crooners Air Supply and Kool & the Gang as well as other performers from the 90s and today that I’m too uncool to recognize.  Other special events include flat track motorcycle racing, demolition derbies and the Brewer’s Festival at the Miller Lite Grandstand.  You can even pay tribute to the late Huell Howser and pose with his life-size cardboard cutout.

And let’s not forget the mainstay of the fair…all of those exhibits that remind us there are some third graders out there with more imagination in their pinkie fingers than we'll ever be able to muster up.  Award-winning art, woodworking and handicrafts will be on display, highlighting Californians’ creativity and convincing me there’s more to life than spending hours of precious spare time on Facebook and Twitter.

Beaumont Cherry Festival - 06/06/13 - 06/09/13

A great time stems (ha!) from these little beauties!


Beaumont Cherry Festival
Beaumont, CA

Festivals require a few important elements: tasty food, great entertainment, wacky visitors and a reason to celebrate.  The city of Beaumont in Riverside County is getting ready to hold their annual Cherry Festival, a continuing tradition for nearly 100 years, which has all the key ingredients for a good time…and more.

The parade on Saturday morning is one of the main attractions, drawing what seems to be the entire town to watch dozens of entries on floats, in cars and on horseback.  Cheer troops, scout groups and various local organizations will be on hand, with planes cruising overhead to kick off the festivities.

The biggest draw, however, are the cherries.  Come for the cherry pies, cherry turnovers, cherry jam, and any number of cherry-themed treats.  And don’t worry, plenty of other food vendors will be available once you come down from your sugar crash.  Once you’re stuffed, take a stroll around the festival and you’ll find exciting games, breathtaking carnival rides and a classic car show to keep you busy.  You can even hold your own impromptu pit-spitting contest to the tunes of local bands.  How fun is that?

Larkspur Flower & Food Festival - 05/26/13

Stop and smell the roses...unless you're
allergic to them.



Larkspur Flower & Food Festival
Larkspur, CA

I have a love-hate relationship with flowers.

I loved my high school and college job, working as a cashier in my aunt and uncle’s flower shop inside the Weberstown Mall in Stockton.  When I wasn’t assembling bouquets or fashioning boutonnieres, I was either finishing up homework, glued to whatever soap opera was on the black-and-white TV next to the register, or shoving fistfuls of caramel corn from Mr. Sib’s in my mouth…all for seven bucks an hour.

On the other hand, I also spent an entire college semester gagging for two hours, twice a week, as I was stuck in a classroom with no windows and in close proximity to one particular student, Monica, with a penchant for lavender-scented perfume and the inability to apply anything less than half a bottle right before class.

Lucky for me, Larkspur holds this festival out in the fresh air - at the foot of Mt. Tamalpais, to be exact.  Enjoy the beauty of the flora while sampling the area’s best gourmet foods as locals have done for over 20 years.  Live music and a kids’ corner round out this family-friendly event.

Festivals tend to have at least one BBQ vendor, which is where you’ll find me if I happen to spot Monica in the crowd.  On the other hand, is it considered assault if you Febreeze someone?

Linden Cherry Festival - 05/18/13

Missing this event would be a pit-y!

Linden Cherry Festival
Linden, CA

I must admit that as a young whippersnapper I probably consumed more processed cherries than raw cherries.  A big treat for me back in the day was that crackling of the waxed paper wrapper as I tore open the package of a Hostess Cherry Pie.  I mean, really: soft, flaky crust, encasing juicy cherries and whatever that cherry gel stuff was made of, all glazed with icing.  I want one now!

Now that I’m all grown up (ha!), I try my best not to devour such calorie bombs.  Last summer, I bought a cherry pitter, and officially became a “real” cherry fan.  Full of antioxidants, I ate them by the bowlful.  Did you know that could really upset your stomach?  I didn’t.

Full of cherry orchards and a hub for cherry picking and processing activities, Linden is the perfect small town to host the annual festival, which boasts a car show, parade, bake-off and the ever-popular pie eating contest (not the Hostess ones).  Come to win, because losing is the pits!  Sorry about that one.

Cloverdale Old Time Fiddle Festival - 05/04/13 - 05/05/13


I have no clue how to use this thing, either.


Cloverdale Old Time Fiddle Festival
Cloverdale, CA

Fiddles get a bad rap.  The same grandmother who constantly told me to “stop fiddling around” also used the phrase “Oh, fiddlesticks!” as some form of cursing…probably those times when I refused to stop fiddling around.

Fact is, it’s a complicated instrument ignored by so many lazy youth who’d rather make fart noises into an autotune machine.  Luckily, the Cloverdale Historical Society works to preserve the fiddling culture and celebrates its heritage each year with a good ol’ fashioned fiddling contest. 

Competition is stiff, and the rules are clear: no performing under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  On the other hand, considering how difficult of an instrument this is to master, I’d actually like to see someone try…


Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival - 04/13/13 - 04/14/13 & 04/20/13 - 04/21/13


Allergies, schmallergies.  Where's the tonkatsu?


Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival
San Francisco, CA

Cherry blossoms, you are the bane of my existence.  Once a year, you turn walks to my grandmother’s house into treacherous trips that end up in allergy headaches and clogged sinuses.  Boo.

Would that keep me from attending a festival in your honor, however?  Nope.  I’m not giving up on walks to visit Grandma, so I’m certainly not giving up a visit to San Francisco’s Japantown for origami exhibits, sword fighting, a huge food bazaar, and a photo opp with Hello Kitty at the Sanrio Kids Corner.  I mean, that would be crazy!

Finally, a chance to convince friends who’ve been living under rocks that Japanese culture stretches beyond California rolls (ugh) and Pokemon!  Kick back watching the Grand Parade, check out the Children’s Tsuzumi (Japanese drum) Challenge, and choose your favorite model in the Anima Fashion Show.

Yes, there will probably be funnel cakes.  It’s still a festival, after all.

North Lake Tahoe SnowFest - 03/01/13 - 03/10/13

No such thing as too many marshmallows!


North Lake Tahoe SnowFest
Various Locations near Lake Tahoe, CA

SnowFest is a collection of events in and around Lake Tahoe, many of which involve food...so, what's not to like?

This year's culinary happenings include a Pub Crawl sponsored by Captain Morgan, Firefighters Pancake Breakfast, and a zany Extreme Food Challenge with increasingly odd morsels to force down your throat.  Competitions like the Ice Cream Eating Contest and Bloody Mary Masters Competition are sure to offer plenty of gastronomical entertainment.  Feel full just reading this?  Burn some extra calories by participating in the 37th Annual Great Ski Race or become a human bowling ball as you race down the slopes in your sled during Wacky Winter Bowling.

Just thinking about Tahoe at this time of year makes me cold.  Hot chocolate, anyone?

Capay Valley Almond Festival - 02/24/13

It'd be nuts to skip this event!
Capay Valley Almond Festival
Capay Valley, CA

The annual Almond Festival showcases what five little towns surrounding Cache Creek Casino have to offer.  Stop along the way.  Buy from local growers and vendors.  Stay a while!  Those slot machines aren't going anywhere.

When the Esparto FFA takes time to point out their Pancake Breakfast "includes sausage", that should be reason enough to partake.  If you're watching your waistline, sign up for the Fun Run or Golf Tournament instead.

With hayrides and petting zoos for the kids, olive oil tastings and baking contests for the adults, as well as three fire station open houses for the singles gals, there's bound to be something for the whole family.

Chinatown Community Street Fair - 02/23/13 - 02/24/13

Feeling lucky?
Chinatown Community Street Fair
San Francisco, CA

San Francisco's Chinatown is much more than just fortune cookies and unmanned sidewalk vegetable displays that depend on little more than the honor system; it's a world of colorful sights, pungent aromas of duck fat and ginger, and brilliant spectacles such as lion dancing, which is far more impressive than the similar-sounding line dancing.

All of the above are part of the Chinatown Community Street Fair, held the weekend of the Chinese New Year Parade.  With nearly half a million attendees, the fair boasts a number of cultural activities such as kite making, puppet shows and calligraphy demonstrations.  Stroll the streets while popping in and out of Chinese markets, bakeries and tea shops.

Acrobats and magicians round out the entertainment, although I prefer to entertain myself with my own Char Siu Bao-eating contest, party of one.

For the Love of Chocolate and SweetArt Fest - 02/09/13

Dessert first!

For the Love of Chocolate and SweetArt Fest
Escondido, CA

The city of Escondido is the former home of the Repository for Germinal Choice, a sperm bank believed to have accepted donations strictly from Nobel Prize winner.

This has nothing to do with downtown's annual For the Love of Chocolate and SweetArt Festival, but it is an interesting fact nonetheless.

Festival options include paid admission for chocolate and alcohol pairings or free admission to the vendor and music area known as Sweet Street.  A couple tall ones from the Coronado Brewing Company may provide enough liquid courage to ask that pretty girl to take the horse-drawn carriage ride with you; after all, you never know when you'll need to compete with the likes of a Saul Perlmutter or Liu Xiaobo. Feel free to Google those now.

Holtville Carrot Festival - 02/01/13 - 02/10/13

Dawn Wells would be proud.

Holtville Carrot Festival
Holtville, CA

My love for carrots stems (ha!) largely from an old episode of Gilligan's Island in which Gilligan discovers a crate of radioactive vegetable seeds. The plants grow suspiciously fast and are oddly misshapen, but the castaways devour them, like anyone else would after a steady diet of coconuts and...more coconuts.

The vegetables give each character "super powers": Gilligan's spinach intake renders him uncanny strength, Mrs. Howell becomes hyperactivity personified thanks to sugar beets, and the beloved Mary Ann is able to see for hundred of miles after eating radioactive carrots.  Young and impressionable, I thought the whole carrot thing might work for me, too.

Fast-forward to the 21st century, and I'm slightly less gullible.  I still dig carrots, though, as do the residents of Holtville, the self-proclaimed "Carrot Capital of the World".  The people have been celebrating this popular root vegetable for over six decades with cook-offs, parades and live entertainment.

Indulge in carrot cake and carrot ice cream, congratulate the Carrot Festival Queen, and tip your hat to Sherwood Schwartz for steering you away from Twinkies and Ho-Ho's for at least a few minutes.

Mendocino County Crab, Wine & Beer Festival - 01/18/13 - 01/27/13

Get crackin', but keep your shell shards to yourself!

Mendocino County Crab, Wine & Beer Festival
Various Locations in Mendocino County

To those who believe crabs feel pain, and therefore refuse to eat them because they consider plunging lives ones into boiling water to be inhumane, I have the following to say:

"More for me."

This festival is a culmination of crustacean celebrations including a crab cake cook-off, cioppino dinner, various crab feeds (naturally) and a winemaker's dinner.  Local restaurants, hotels and inns participate by offering their own specials to draw crowds to what Coastal Living magazine named one of America's Top 10 Seafood & Wine Festivals. Enjoy local whale watching, browse art galleries and enjoy incredible sunsets while you sip your favorite vintage.

Discover what real crab tastes like, then vow to boycott Long John Silver's forever...or at least until your next craving for 99-cent fish tacos.

San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival - 11/14/12 - 11/18/12

Do NOT leave your bottle opener at home!
San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival
San Diego, CA

This event provides a great opportunity to stretch those stomach muscles in preparation for Thanksgiving.

Now in its 8th year, this festival is the area's premiere destination for food and wine aficionados to attend cooking classes and wine tasting seminars, meets chefs and winemakers, and sample morsels from gourmet food companies.  Bid on a celebrity chef luncheon, then watch chefs compete for $50,000 in the Chef of the Fest competition.  Turn the event into a vacation with a Wine Weekend Getaway package including hotel accommodations and VIP experiences.

Crepes, sushi, gourmet chocolates and more can all be yours.  Enjoy an array of international cuisine before hunkering down with (at least) a week of turkey, turkey sandwiches, turkey enchiladas, turkey soup...catch my drift?

O.C. Chocolate Festival - 11/02/12 - 11/03/12

(I'll take one of each!)


Garden Grove, CA

Bravo, Orange County.  How do you top off a two-day fundraiser centered around chocolate tasting?  You add live jazz, chocolate demos and several "surprise contests" to the mix!

This decadent festival benefits the Fountain Valley Community Foundation as well as the Boys & Girls Club of Huntington Valley - as if you need more reasons to indulge in cakes, cookies, gelato, chocolate fountains and other decadent treats.  Pastry chefs and chocolate artists will battle it out in a tasty competition, and guests will have the chance to sample their creations.  Meanwhile, children 12 and under will enjoy the Kids Zone chock full of cocoa-inspired activities.

Keep in mind weather is cooler in November; splurge all you want, then hide out in baggy sweaters to mask your guilt for the next few days.

Tarantula Awareness Festival - 10/27/12

Yes, it's an irrational fear.  So, sue me!


Tarantula Awareness Festival
Coarsegold, CA

Interesting name for a festival, Madera County.  I'm already pretty aware of the existence of tarantulas...mainly because they scare the crap out of me.

With Halloween around the corner, there's no shortage of pumpkin patches, lame haunted houses, and costume contests featuring women clad in "naughty" versions of every occupation imaginable.  For those looking for something more unique, search no further: the historic village of Coarsegold has you covered.

More than just a roundup of creepy tarantulas and their owners, the festival provides an entire day of activities that include food (thank God) and several contests that don't involve touching the aforementioned arachnids.  Bring your best pumpkin cake, forego shaving for the hairy leg contest (women, too!), or arrive with an empty belly in preparation for the pizza eating competition.  If partaking in the latter, you'll be happy to know that fifteen minutes of Jazzercise will occur mid-afternoon.

Dress up the kids decorate a pumpkin, and hold a tarantula - if you dare.

Pismo Beach Clam Festival - 10/19/12 - 10/21/12

The only thing missing is my fork.

Pismo Beach Clam Festival
Pismo Beach, CA

As if living in an oceanside community isn't enough, the residents of Pismo Beach have to flaunt their camaraderie and community involvement each year with their exciting Clam Festival!

Pismo boasts a laid-back, yet sophisticated lifestyle with plenty of beach activity and arguably the best cinnamon rolls on the coast (I'm talking about YOU, Old West).  The annual Clam Festival kicks off with a Wine Walk on Friday night and continues throughout the weekend with live music, entertainment, a chowder cook-off (naturally) and even a clam dig. Saturday morning's parade is a showcase of local talent, businesses, schools and any other groups who enjoy marching in formation.

Have a few bucks handy to participate in chowder tasting, and B.Y.O.B.B. (Bring Your Own Bread Bowl) if you're fancy like that.

Santa Barbara Harbor & Seafood Festival - 10/13/12

Toothpicks?  Am I supposed to share?

Santa Barbara Harbor & Seafood Festival
Santa Barbara, CA

We get it, Santa Barbara.  You are awesome.  Your people are beautiful, your scenery is breathtaking, and your possibilities for fun and adventure are seemingly limitless.

Must you rub it in with a freaking seafood festival?

I give up.  I'll enjoy forkfuls or crab as I stroll along the harbor, watching kayakers soak up the sun.  I'll plant my butt in the shade of a tree with a bisected lobster, swathed with clarified butter, wishing that was my houseboat with the golden retriever napping on deck.  I'll watch chefs master the art of crab cakes and cioppino, then end the day with a leisurely boat tour, witnessing a spectacular sunset unmatched by anything in Elk Grove.

Is that what you want, Santa Barbara?  For me to experience, for one day, a magically delicious event in an ideal climate and picturesque setting?  With free admission?  Okay, if you insist.

California Candy Festival - 09/22/12 - 09/23/12

This is BETTER than Halloween.
California Candy Festival
Fairfield, CA

What do you get when you combine candy, roller coasters, music and wine?

A pretty awesome day, that's what!

Located at the Jelly Belly Factory, this event will pay tribute to confections of all kinds including ice cream, cupcakes, chocolate-dipped fruit, gourmet marshmallows and countless other desserts.  Balance out the sweets with snacks from popular area food trucks...then go back for more caramel corn, funnel cakes and shaved ice.

Activities and vendors will satisfy folks of all ages.  Between the mechanical bull, jewelry and photography booths, and candy-making demos, there's something for everyone.  Adults will enjoy the Chocolate Wine Pairings Experience, which includes chocolate tastings and a souvenir wine glass.  Just do everyone a favor and try the zipline before imbibing.  Deal?  Deal.

Danish Days - 09/14/12 - 09/16/12

Cocoa and vino: a winning combination.
Danish Days
Solvang, CA

The words "Aebleskiver Breakfast" make me want to drop whatever I'm doing and drive five hours to Santa Barbara county.  Is that weird?

Danish Day is more than just a mere celebration of culture and history.  It's interactive. How many festivals allow you to casually stroll through a farmers market, then immediately try on Viking armor or hold Viking weapons while listening to a live band playing from atop something called the Carlsberg Beer Wagon?  Admit it, that sounds more than slightly awesome.

After a weekend of inhaling pastries, daytime wine tasting and nighttime imbibing at the Solvang Brewing Company, enjoy the closing ceremonies in Solvang Park on Sunday afternoon.  Like Grandma always said, nothing cures a hangover like a big Danish sausage.  This IS what she meant, right?


Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival - 09/08/12 - 09/09/12

Don't mind if I do!
Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival
San Francisco, CA

This event has it all: buttloads of chocolate (obviously), multiple age divisions of their famed ice cream-eating contest, and lots of cardio provided by the requisite dodging of unsupervised children with sticky, fudgy hands.

Purchase your chosen allotment of tickets, then run amuck sampling cookies, hot chocolate, ice cream, truffles and more...the sky's the limit! Festival veterans such as yours truly prepare a la crab feeds and bring Ziploc bags to fill with goodies to enjoy at home.  If the treats make it home, that is.

Once the crowds die down, go back to your favorite booths and thank them personally for all the extra work you'll have to put in at the gym during the coming week.  I'm sure they'll appreciate that.

Pittsburg Seafood Festival - 09/08/12 - 09/09/12

When I seafood...you know what happens.
Pittsburg Seafood Festival
Pittsburg, CA

A lot of cool stuff happened in 1984: the U.S. hosted the Olympic games; "When Doves Cry" topped the Billboard charts; and Pittsburg held its first annual Seafood Festival.

Going strong for nearly three decades, the Pittsburg Seafood Festival is not just a celebration of, well, seafood, but also the local community and those who live in it. Besides the countless seafood and snack vendors, highlights include dance and musical acts and other displays of talent which I am hoping, based on the egregious errors found the festival website, do not include a spelling bee.

More than 40 vendors will be on hand serving everything from calamari to kettle corn, allowing you to sample a varied cuisine while enjoying live entertainment on multiple stages before settling in at the beer and wine pavilion.  Fancy!

Rainbow Festival - 08/31/12 - 09/02/12

Taste the rainbow!
Rainbow Festival -08/31/12 - 09/02/12
Sacramento, CA

While passersby may think this is just another celebration of gay, lesbian and transgender pride, they may be surprised to learn that, at the heart of this annual celebration, lies a philanthropic agenda: publicizing charities important to this particular community.

Located in the Lavender Heights area of midtown Sacramento, this event is an all-out party with festival-goers hopping from Faces to Hot Rod's to Badlands to Headhunters...and then back to Faces.  Why, you ask?  Um, have you seen their bartenders?  Those guys have better bikini bodies than most chicks I know.

The only thing that could make guests any happier would be Debbie Gibson, on stage, performing her greatest hits.  Oh, too late!  That already happened a few years back.

Corning Olive Festival - 08/24/12 - 08/25/12

Oh yeah - I'll eat these, too!

Corning Olive Festival
Corning, CA

The only olives I can stand are the black ones - either on my pizza or worn on the tips of my fingers.

Therefore, any olive festival I'm going to drive 129 miles to better have a damn good draw; something worth that two-hour drive.  Something like...a bed race!

The official Bed Race Rules are long and exhaustive, but the contest has it all: bed riders and runners, a costume change halfway through...and a strict no-brakes policy. The teams' objective?  Cross the finish line, of course. The spectators' objective?  Single out the team who "prepared" for competition at the local bar, then watch as sheer bedlam (get it?) inevitably ensues.

Now back to the festival: there's a cook-off, talent show, and the annual crowning of Miss Corning.  Don't forget the pancake breakfast on Saturday, which you'll probably want to enjoy after participating in the Fun Run.  Just some friendly advice.

Chula Vista Lemon Festival - 08/12/12

How many can I have?
Chula Vista Lemon Festival
Chula Vista, CA

Remember that episode of "The Brady Bunch" in which Jan rubbed her face with a lemon to get rid of her freckles?

That has nothing to do with this festival.  I just happened to like that episode.

The self-proclaimed "Lemon Capital of the World" is holding their annual festival in August, likely the best month to enjoy a cool, refreshing glass of lemonade while perusing art, boutique shopping, and enjoying a myriad of food choices.  Entertainment options vary from Latin percussion to Ballet Folklorico to an Elvis tribute.

Competitive?  Check out the pie eating and hula hoop contests to see if you can squeeze one into your schedule.  Get it?  Squeeze?  Lemons?

Festa Italiana - 08/04/12 - 08/05/12

For once, I'm speechless.

Festa Italiana
Carmichael, CA

There's something about a festival flyer, which looks as if it were ripped out of a Buca di Beppo menu, that makes me want to spend an entire day eating meatballs.  Imagine that.

You'll surely be able to get your fill of those, along with other Italian delicacies, at the Festa which includes bocce games, a marketplace chock full of Italian jewelry and art, and activities for the children.

The Festa culminates Sunday evening with a "Giant Raffle"...win a trip for two to Italy, then be grateful for the opportunity to sample pastas NOT from the Olive Garden.

Citrus Festival - 07/20/12 - 07/22/12

Pucker up!

Citrus Festival
Santa Paula, CA

The most fascinating aspect of this festival is the myriad of citrus-related cooking, eating and drinking contests, although any time a competition involves drinking, it should really be referred to as "chugging".  Am I right? Of course.

Been stashing away your coveted Lemon Marmalade recipe?  Looking to don that Sunkist orange costume you've been dying to wear...again?  Or, can you peel avocados faster than other famous avocado peelers whose names escape me at the moment?  Well, then step right up.

If you're not the type to go public with your lemonade chugging, er, drinking skills, you can still have fun learning about the local produce of Ventura County.  Did you know that you'd have to eat seven cups of Corn Flakes to equal the amount of fiber in one medium orange?  Well, now you do.

California State Fair - 07/12/12 - 07/29/12

Sometimes, life presents difficult decisions.


California State Fair
Sacramento, CA

The food!  The exhibits!  The people watching!  The food!  The concerts!  The food!

Guess what my favorite part of the fair is?

I'm not knocking the people watching which, for Sacramento, is top-notch.  I love seeing elderly couples, hand-in-hand, sharing a big-ass waffle cone; wide-eyed kids who've never seen a ferris wheel;  "hypnotized" individuals barking like dogs.  It's great!  On the other hand, I can do without some sectors of the population: unsupervised toddlers wielding large, sticky lollipops; women in the ladies room who shake out their sopping wet hands onto you instead of grabbing paper towels; and parents with kids on disturbing leashes.

The concert offering can run the gamut from the 1950s to today.  There's at least one show I've got to see each year.  Whether it's Rick Springfield, M.C. Hammer, Jeffrey Osbourne or Weird Al Yankovic, the choices can't be beaten.  By the way, I think I just showed my age.

But oh, the food...this is what brings me back year after year.  Whatever they're dipping in batter and plunging into recycled oil this year, I've got to have it!  For years, my choices were limited to corn dogs and funnel cakes: booooooring.  Today, that repertoire has expanded to cheesecake, Moon Pies, and even sandwiches using donuts as buns.  Booyah.

So grab something fried, kindly ask if you can share a table if needed (emphasis on the word "kindly"), and relieve yourself before the concert so you'll avoid impeding my view of .38 Special in the middle of "Caught Up In You".  Thanks in advance!

NorCal Pirate Festival - 06/16/12 - 06/17/12

Arrrrre...you ready to search for me arrow?
Vallejo, CA

At last, a chance to legally grab some booty in Solano County!

If you're still nurturing a disturbing Daryl Hannah fetish from the early 80s, you're in luck: this year, you'll be able to snap photos with mermaids in the new lagoon.  More of a Johnny Depp fan?  Well, he won't be there, but you'll enjoy the magic, ventriloquism and comedic stylings of Captain Jack Spareribs!

Stuff your gullet with festive grub including fish and chips, pretzels and pickles.  You'll need the energy to navigate your way to activities such as sword fighting, cannon battles, and the vixens of singing group Queen Anne's Revenge, whose name sounds like the result of eating too many of those pretzels and pickles.

Bask in a magical day of piratedom, and and be wary of any old, toothless man asking you to "walk his plank".

Belmont Stakes Wine Festival - 06/09/12

Sadly, no drinking for these guys.
Berkeley, CA

Finally, a reason to bust out that stupid, enormous hat you bought after watching the episode of Newlyweds with Jessica Simpson at the Kentucky Derby.

For less than two Andrew Jacksons you'll enjoy fifteen samples of various wines along with your admission to one of the most fantastical outdoor venues in the Bay Area, Golden Gate Fields.  Help yourself to bruschetta, fruit, and cheese, relax to the sounds of live jazz, then lose the mortgage on Lucky Number Seven because you just sampled fifteen different wines.

Don't forget to bring home your souvenir glass!  It may be worth more than the contents of your wallet by the end of the day.

Patterson Apricot Fiesta - 06/01/12 - 06/03/12

Enjoy...before your arm is broken!

Patterson Apricot Fiesta
Patterson, CA

Some things are just made for each other: peanut butter and jelly, clam chowder and sourdough bread bowls, apricots and arm wrestling.

Yes, arm wrestling!

Let's face it: Californians are blessed with living in a state where festivals are a dime a dozen.  If you're going to draw thousands of people to yours, you better have an event worthy of the drive to Patterson.  At the Apricot Fiesta, this event would be the annual Arm Wrestling Contest.

This contest is the real deal.  There's a stage.  There are weigh-ins.  There are contestants whose wrestling arms are considerably larger than their other arms.  And, there are waivers required which hold the promoters harmless should Bluto rip off your appendage in the process.

Come for the apricots, stay for the smell of testosterone in the air!

Larkspur Flower & Food Festival - 05/27/12

Bring Allegra...just in case.



Larkspur Flower & Food Festival
Larkspur, CA

I have a love-hate relationship with flowers.

I loved my high school and college job, working as a cashier in my aunt's and uncle's flower shop inside the Weberstown Mall in Stockton, California.  When I wasn't assembling bouquets or fashioning boutonnieres, I was either finishing up homework, glued to whatever soap opera was on the black-and-white TV next to the register, or shoving fistfuls of caramel corn from Mr. Sib's in my mouth...all for seven bucks an hour.

On the other hand, I also spent an entire college semester gagging for two hours, twice a week, as I was stuck in a classroom with no windows and in close proximity to one particular student, Monica, with a penchant for lavender-scented perfume and the inability to apply anything less than half a bottle right before class.

Lucky for me, Larkspur holds this festival out in the fresh air - at the foot of Mt. Tamalpais, to be exact.  Enjoy the beauty of the flora while sampling the area's best gourmet foods as locals have done for over 20 years.  Live music and a kids' corner round out this family-friend event.

Festivals tend to have at least one BBQ vendor, which is where you'll find me if I happen to spot Monica in the crowd.  On the other hand, is it considered assault if you Febreze someone?

Arroyo Grande Strawberry Festival - 05/26/12 - 05/27/12

Each exterior "seed" is actually an individual ovary.
You're welcome!




Arroyo Grande Strawberry Festival
Arroyo Grande, CA

Any time a festival makes it to the pages of Sunset Magazine, attendance will increase out of sheer curiosity.  Visitors are advised to make lodging arrangements six months in advance, for crying out loud!

Beautiful Arroyo Grande is the little village you'd imagine if you pictured...well, the quintessential California village.  Lined with shops and restaurants, it's the ideal setting for thousands of festival-goers to enjoy a pancake breakfast, live music, rides and games, cook-offs and anything else that could possibly be strawberry-related.

Registration for the Strawberry Stampede Run/Walk takes place in Heritage Square.  Walk if you must, but keep in mind that you'll return to find strawberry funnel cakes, shortcakes, ice creams and more staring you in the face.  That should motivate you to pick up the pace a bit.

Castroville Artichoke Festival - 05/19/12 - 05/20/12

Handle with care.  You've been warned!

Castroville Artichoke Festival
Castroville, CA

Artichokes are quite possibly the most passively aggressive member of the vegetable family.  I mean, you have to do some serious work to get to the good stuff.  Pick one up with anything more than the gentlest grip, and you'll feel as if you're being violently stabbed in the palm by toothpicks. But once you hack off some of the top, trim the prickly leaves, and steam, you're left with soft, tender leaves and some delicious tooth-scraping time in your near future.

Castroville has been celebrating America's favorite thistle for over five decades.  After filling up on artichokes that have been fried, creamed, pickled and made into pizza, you can partake in a tour of an artichoke patch and learn how this tough-as-nails food is cultivated and harvested.  I'm assuming (and secretly hoping) that machetes are involved.

ZinFest - 05/18/12 - 05/20/12

Gorgeous (the flower, too)!
Zinfest
Lodi, CA

FINALLY.  Three days of wine and food, conveniently located within 30 minutes from my home.  Is this a dream?

Friday's Vintner's Grille at Lodi Lake will pair some of the region's best local cuisine with area wines in a casual, but elegant setting.  I'm not sure what the "colorful festivities" they advertise are, but it sure sounds classy.

Step it up a notch on Saturday, when you can sample over 250 wines from dozens of Lodi wineries.  Shop for gifts, attend cooking schools led by culinary experts, and join a wine workshop to learn what vintage pairs best with Cheez Whiz.

On Sunday, walk off those calories from Friday and Saturday...then replace them as you nibble your way through winery open houses.  Paella?  Check.  Cheese balls?  Check. Tums?  Check.

Don't know the definition of "moderation"?  Be sure to pick up a Zinfest souvenir sun visor, which will come in handy Monday morning as you hang your head in hungover shame.

Chocolate Festival - 05/12/12

Who's got the graham crackers and marshmallows?

Chocolate Festival
Encinitas, CA

If your Grandma's going to drag you to a botanic garden, allergies and all, you may as well get something out of it, right?

After popping Allegra and hoping for the best, steer Nana to the chocolate vendors to sample truffles, toffee, pastries and more.  She can peruse jewelry, crafts and plants (of course) while you commandeer the chocolate fountain, systematically shoving marshmallow after chocolate-covered marshmallow down your throat.

Suggest you both take a breather in the Walled Garden while learning to make tarts, cake pops and grilled desserts.  Enjoy the live music, and hope it takes your mind off the fact that you can no longer breathe through your nose.

Petaluma Butter & Egg Days - 04/28/12 - 04/29/12

Please don't hit on THESE chicks.
Petaluma Butter & Egg Days
Petaluma, CA

I never get tired of festivals.  I love pancake breakfasts, marching bands, and poor saps cleaning up after nervous horses during parades; and when a festival also features a Cow Chip Throwing Contest, I HAVE TO be there.

Petaluma is one of the premier dairy regions in the country, and Butter & Eggs Days celebrates the area's rich agricultural history.  Drawing thousands of attendees annually, the event boasts a parade with over 3,000 participants as well as a seemingly never-ending block-long outdoor food court.

Browse the local shops and take time perusing the Antique Fair (Sunday only).  Be sure to catch the traditional Cutest Little Chick Contest which awards prizes to egg-ceptional dairy-related costumes.  I hope you laughed at that one.

Stockton Asparagus Festival - 4/27/12 - 04/29/12

We've got spear-it!


Stockton Asparagus Festival
Stockton, CA

Years ago, the Asparagus Festival featured a fabulous Elton John impersonator/performer.  Another year, the debut of Asparagus Ice Cream. Later, the introduction of a contest in which members of the International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE) vying for the championship title at the Deep Fried Asparagus Eating Contest.

It just gets better and better!

This festival has outgrown its humble beginnings on the north side of town and has moved downtown to the Stockton Waterfront.  Parking may be a bit further away, but you no longer have to walk through a dirt field now (and admit it, you could use the exercise).

But, that's besides the point.  The focus here is ASPARAGUS - deliciously firm, bright green stalks which are generally good for your health unless you take a break from your diet (ha) and opt for the popular specialty, Deep Fried Asparagus.  Love it as much as I do? Sign up for the Deep Fried Asparagus Eating Contest and you may find yourself competing against the famous mouths of Eater X, Pat Bertoletti and Joey Chestnut.

Did I mention the last time I watched Bertoletti, he was washing down dish after dish of spears with fruit punch?  Now that's a competitor!

SactoMoFo 4 - 04/21/12

Sunscreen, people, sunscreen!


SactoMoFo 4
Sacramento, CA

Besides unemployment (boo), nothing has caught on so quickly in recent months like the food truck scene in Sacramento.  Come to think of it, the two concepts may go hand in hand: those with decreased incomes, but not decreased appetites, are looking for new ways to treat themselves without the hassle of restaurants, servers and tipping.

The Sacramento Mobile Food Festival (or SactoMoFo for those who like names that sound dirty, but aren't) brings mobile food as far away as the Bay Area to give locals the opportunity to taste unique creations each truck brings to the table, so to speak.  As an added bonus, those in line receive free tans or sunburns as the most popular trucks can have queues as long as two hours.

At the forefront of the festival is the support of a local community which continues to balk at city regulations requiring Sacramento's food trucks to change their locations every 30 minutes.  Luckily, diners can hunt down their trucks of choice on Facebook and Twitter, allowing them to satisfy their cravings for sliders, pork buns or escargot lollipops as owners play "musical trucks" to satisfy government officials.  Way to keep gas stations in business, Sacramento.

California Nut Festival - 04/21/12

Bring your own nutcracker!
California Nut Festival
Chico, CA

Nuts carry extraordinary health benefits: eating 50 grams of nuts a day may reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.  50 grams of chocolate-covered salted caramel peanut clusters?  Not so much.

Wrap your mouth around all the nuts you can handle at this Chico festival being held at the gorgeous Patrick Ranch Museum.  The main event includes food and beverage tastings from bakeries, caterers and wineries and the opportunity to meet (and thank!) local farmers and retailers. Enjoy local bands on two stages while perusing the art show or learning more about the cultivation and appreciation of these protein-packed goodies.

By the way, arachibutyrophobia is the fear of getting peanut butter stick to the roof of your mouth.  And to think I get chastised for my fear of spiders...

Fallbrook Avocado Festival - 04/15/12

Got tortilla chips?
Fallbrook Avocado Festival
Fallbrook, CA

I still remember my first time tasting "real" guacamole.  Up until then I wasn't too fond of the stuff, considering my only encounter with it was those shallow containers sold in the grocery store dairy section with what looked like green sour cream inside.

My parents took me to El Torito, and moments after placing our dinner order a quiet little man came to our table carrying a huge tray with halved avocados, onions, tomatoes, limes, cilantro and spices.  He carefully scooped the creamy flesh from the fruit and blended it with the rest of the ingredients, topping it off with a few squeezes of lime.  It was chunky!  It was colorful!  It actually smelled like something!  And, it soon became apparent that we would need more than the singular basket of chips that were provided.

Learning to appreciate the avocado was one of my first lessons of adulthood.  I felt like I had some sort of insider tip or learned some great culinary secret.  Truth us, evidence of avocado use dates back to around 10,000 B.C. in Mexico.  Naturally.

Although the community of Fallbrook hasn't celebrated this fruit for quite that long, they have had ample time to perfect a festival giving homage to everything avocado-related.  Feeling competitive?  Bedazzle your avocado for the Best-Dressed Avocado Contest or doll up your kids to compete for the titles of Little Miss and Mister Avocado.  The Guacamole Contest is always a huge draw, as would be expected, along with the Largest Avocado Contest.

The less enthusiastic can kick back with some wine and beer tasting while listening to the Battle of the Bands or some relaxing flamenco or mariachi.  Ole!

California's Artisan Cheese Festival - 03/23/12 - 03/25/12

Say, "Queso"!

California's Artisan Cheese Festival
Petaluma, CA

Years before I was introduced to flaming Saganaki while interning in Chicago, I would nuke slices of Monterey Jack cheese in my grandma's microwave.  The "new" texture was so silky and indulgent, I wanted to eat all of my cheese that way (or so I thought).

Fast forward to 2008, when I tried my first "Squeeze with Cheese" at Sacramento's original Squeeze Inn, breaking off portions of the burger's famous "cheese skirt"; from then on, that's how I wanted to eat all of my cheese.

Let's face it: cheese is awesome.  It's luscious, hearty, savory, delectable and nourishing all at once.  Apples are sexier when accompanied by bleu cheese.  Taken to your next cocktail party, Brie en Croute (although simple to assemble) will make you look like an expert pastry chef.  And, a simple grilled cheese made with Wonder Bread and Kraft Singles seems to always satisfy.

Cheese is an art.  This event will bring together dairy farmers, cheesemakers, merchants, chefs and more.  Take a farm tour, learn to evaluate cheese like a pro, and see what it takes to produce local favorites.  Educate yourself on how to pair beers and wines with your fromage of choice.  Then, indulge at the Sunday marketplace, shopping and tasting your way through more than 70 artisan producers.

You'll never buy canned spray cheese again!  Well, maybe.

North Lake Tahoe SnowFest - 03/02/12 - 03/11/12

The best cure for the cold!
North Lake Tahoe SnowFest
Various Locations, Tahoe City, CA

SnowFest is a collection of events in and around Tahoe City, many of which involve food...so, what's not to like?

This year's culinary happenings include a rib fest, pub crawl, pancake breakfast, and competitions like the Fastest Server and Hot Dog Eating Contests.  Feel full from just reading this?  Burn some extra calories by skiing the 1960 Winter Olympics Biathlon Trail.  For the less adventurous, there's always the Snow Sculpture Contest.

Just thinking about Tahoe at this time of year makes me cold. Must...find...hot...chocolate...

Cloverdale Citrus Fair - 02/17/12 - 02/20/12

Orange you glad you live in California?
Cloverdale Citrus Fair
Cloverdale, CA

The Cloverdale Citrus Festival is a truly old-school event.  Seriously.  It's been around for over 100 years!

This festival includes all of the classics: Carnival of Chaos, Pygmy Goat Shows, gourmet food, and bands and dance teams for entertainment.  Other big draws include the orange juice-off and breathtaking three-dimensional exhibits made almost completely out of citrus, as well as the annual crowning of the Citrus Fair Queen who earns her title based on poise, judges' interviews and talent.

The ancient Romans used lemons to keep moths from eating their clothing; be sure to stock up before your next toga party!

Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival - 02/17/12 - 02/26/12

I like my dates like I like my men: wrapped in bacon and
speared with a toothpick.  Um, what?



Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival
Indio, CA

If only all of us took our dates this seriously.

I'm referring to the fruit, of course.  Festival-goers will find that the whole shebang begins with the Opening Ceremony and Blessing of the Dates. Fancy!

Other scheduled events include the Grand Parade, obligatory demolition derby and monster truck rally, and the SuperFiesta featuring lots of Latin bands whose names I wouldn't dare to pronounce.

As an added bonus, watching the daily Camel and Ostrich Races is free with admission.  If you just yawned and claimed you've seen THOSE a million times, you're a liar!

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