Sunday, May 20, 2012

Food & Wine Festivals...2012

California Avocado Festival:
 Upward of 100,000 people pack this hilly North San Diego County community each April to celebrate the pear-shaped green fruit. Besides guacamole and avocado-cooking contests, the fest includes a avo-car-o race (with tiny plastic wheels inserted into the fruits) and the crowning of an avo king and queen. The 2012 festival was held April 13 on Fallbrook's Main Street. Call 760-728-5845 or visit
California State 38th Annual Chili Cookoff: State finalists stir up their best chili, salsa and menudo for a shot at a slot in the annual World Championship Chili Cookoff in Las Vegas each December. But to get there, chili chefs have to prove themselves at the regional contests held throughout the state year-round. The Old Town Temecula Regional Chili Cookoff takes place May 20, a Tustin contest is June 3, and the Western Regional competition heats up Aug. 4 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Call 909-883-3596 or go to
California Wine Festival: The annual festival features tastings of more than 400 California wines, more than 40 food vendors, international food and wines and live music. Two festivals are held each year, April 20-22 in Orange County and July 19-21 in Santa Barbara.
National Date Festival: An annual tradition since 1936, the festival, also known as the Riverside County Fair, was created to celebrate the date harvest in Indio each year (to honor Algeria, the date palms' native country, camel races and Arabian plays are presented daily). The festival is held each February (the 2013 dates, no pun intended, are Feb. 15-24) at the Riverside County Fairgrounds, 82-503 Highway 111, Indio. Visit or call 760-863-8247.
Julian Apple Days: Created years ago to celebrate the fall harvest of tart apples grown in this North San Diego County mountain community, the festival has grown so large that most of the apples need to be trucked in to fill the fresh-baked pies that are in every downtown store window from Sept. 15-Oct. 15 (or until the apples run out). Events include an Oktoberfest/Apple Days celebration Oct. 6-7 at Menghini Winery, craft shows, live entertainment and more.
La Habra Corn Festival: Hosted by the La Habra Lions Club, this event began as a dance/cookout to celebrate the city's summer corn crop and has since grown into a three-day celebration with food booths, rides, a parade and marketplace and the crowning of a corn queen. Farming attire is expected. The 63rd festival runs Aug. 3-5 at El Centro-Lions Park at 201 N. Cypress St. in La Habra. Visit or call 562-691-3482.
Lemon Festival: Chula Vista, billed in the 1920s as the "Lemon Capital of the World," will celebrate its agricultural heritage with its 16th annual street fair (with live music on three stages, contests and lemons galore) that draws 40,000 a year. The 2012 festival date has not been announced, but usually takes place in late July/early August at Third Avenue, between E and G streets, Chula Vista. Call 619-422-1982 or go to
Long Beach Crawfish Festival: As much about Cajun food as it is about music, the 18th annual festival returns July 28-29, 2012, to the Rainbow Lagoon for a full plate of Cajun, zydeco and New Orleans music, along with tons of crawfish and barn dancing. Visit
Pacific Rim International Wine Competition: Wines from North and South America, New Zealand and Australia are judged by an international panel over five days. The 27th annual contest took place in April at the National Orange Show Events Center, 689 S. E St., San Bernardino. Call 909-888-6788 or go to
I Love Poke Festival: The third annual Hawaiian foodie and culture fest takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. May 30 at the Bali Hai Resort in San Diego. Fifteen San Diego chefs will compete for the poke-making crown. Poke is a Hawaiian delicacy made with raw ahi tuna cut into cubes and seasoned lightly with soy sauce, limu (seaweed) and sesame oil. Tickets are $50. .
Port of Los Angeles Lobster Festival & Music Weekend: This three-day seaside festival features live music, a parade, family entertainment, children's activities and lots and lots of Pacific lobsters from Sept. 14-16 at Redondo Beach's Seaside Lagoon. Call 800-282-0333 or
San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival: Scheduled for Nov. 14-18, this four-day program of dinners, wine tastings and cooking classes culminates in the Grand Event, featuring 70 restaurants and 170 wineries and a local chefs' cooking competition at Embarcadero Marina Park North, San Diego. Visit
Strawberry Festival: Tri-City Medical Center hosts the 2012 Strawberry Festival with a Strawberry 5K & Kids Run running from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 27 in downtown Vista. The event includes a 5-kilometer race for adults at the Wave Waterpark, a 1-mile children's run, strawberry cooking, pie-eating and costume contests, and strawberry sales, vendor booths, art displays, a health and fitness expo and more. Visit
Family Winemakers of California Tasting 2012: This one-day gathering of more than 200 California wineries held each March (this year it was March 11) at the Del Mar Fairgrounds is mostly a trade event for wine buyers, but in the afternoon, it opens to the public. From 3 to 6 p.m., wine fans came and tasted to their hearts' content for $55-$65. Visit
World of Wine Weekend: The Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association hosted a weekend of barrel and reserve tastings, dinners and events March 3-4 in the Temecula Valley. Tickets are $80. Visit
Still hungry? Don't miss these:
Napa Valley Mustard Festival ---- The festival has struggled in recent years, but expanded its offerings this year to include jazz concerts March 10-11. Call 707-938-1133 or
Spam Festival ---- The 11th annual festival --- complete withcontest of spam-eating, tossing and cooking ---- took place Feb. 15 at Isleton Joe's, 212 Second St., Isleton. 916-806-2498.
Clam Chowder Cookoff ---- Now in its 31st year, this celebration of shellfish is presented every February at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Visit or 831-420-5273.
Capay Valley Almond Festival ---- An annual tradition since 1915, this fest is held each March (during almond blossom season) in Esparto, Guinda and Rumsey. or call Call 530-787-3242.
Asparagus Festival ---- Nearly 100,000 turn up for this three-day fest held each April in downtown Stockton;
Castroville Artichoke Festival ---- Try it every which way. Festival runs May 19-20 this year in Castroville. Visit
California Strawberry Festival ---- More than 200 vendors and tons of fresh, locally grown berries; May 19-20, Strawberry Meadows, 3250 S. Rose Ave., Oxnard;
Patterson Apricot Festival ---- The Apricot Queen will be crowned at this popular 42nd annual agricultural festival June 1-3. Visit
California Peach Festival ---- The 13th annual festival returns July 20-21, the peak of peach season in downtown Marysville. Visit
Gilroy Garlic Festival ---- More than two tons of Gilroy's prized crop is cooked up or sold raw at one of the state's largest food festivals. The 34th annual fest will run July 27-29.
National Heirloom Exhibition ---- More than 15,000 gardeners flock to this exhibition of more than 2,000 heirloom, gourmet specialty vegetables at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, Sept. 
Isleton Cajun Festival---Crawdads---Family Fun Held on Fathers Day weekend again this year as it has been from it's beginning, the headline musical act for Saturday night this year is MUMBO GUMBO
Multi-SAMMIE Winning Band. Multi-Best of Sacramento awards. The band won the SAMMIE award as best Sacramento-area band for nine consecutive years until they retired from competition so other bands could have a chance to win. Originally called the "Spydels", the band changed its name in 1991 to "Mumbo Gumbo" to reflect its New Orleans and Carribean musical influences. They have released eight CDs on Ruby Records, a Davis-based record label, including their newest "Fun Pac", released in May 2009

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