MONTEREY — The Castroville Artichoke Food & Wine Festival will return to the Monterey County Fair and Event Center for two full days of cooking demonstrations, activities, exhibits and entertainment.
The festival, now entering its 58th year, began in 1959 as a way to celebrate the vegetable and its harvest in the region. Since then, the event has become extremely popular, with close to 14,000 attendees from across the globe.
Until a few years ago the festival was held in Castroville itself. Now in Monterey, it has expanded and grown to include a number of new attractions.
This year the festival will offer a series of cooking demonstrations from chefs and food personalities of the Monterey Bay region. Tony Baker, Jerry Regester, Butch Francis and others will showcase the different ways to prepare artichokes on the Chef Demo Stage.
"There are so many options in how to cook an artichoke," said Glen Alameda of Ocean Mist Farms, presenting sponsor and supplier for the festival. "We want people to see that and be inspired."
The festival is also offering educational bus tours of nearby fields for an additional fare. Organizers hope these tours will give festival-goers a unique look into how artichokes are grown and harvested. Since space is limited, it is recommended to reserve seats online ahead of time.
The annual Agro Art competition will take place on Saturday, June 3 and is open to anyone over 5 years old. Competitors are asked to arrive at 10 a.m. with their supplies and then attempt to craft a three-dimensional sculpture built from fruits and vegetables.
"It's pretty impressive what these artists can create," said Diana McClean, director of marketing at Ocean Mist Farms.
Live musical acts — including a Bruno Mars tribute band and local favorite The Chicano All Stars — will perform throughout the weekend. At the Kids Zone, children can enjoy activities such as games and face painting. There will also be a food court and farmer's market.
But the festival is not only about food and fun. It is also an important source of funding for local nonprofit organizations.
"We are an agriculture community," McClean said. "It is important for us to give back to the place which we have been firmly grounded in for so long."
Admission to the festival is $15 for adults, $10 for seniors (62 and over) and active military, $5 for children 6-12 and free for children under 5. Special advance ticket packages are available online.
Visit artichokefestival.org or call (831) 633-2465 for ticketing, registering for the Agro Art Competition and other information.