Sweet & Savory

Tomato Festival

2011 marks the 20th anniversary of Fairfield’s own Tomato Festival. With over 30,000 visitors last year, the Fairfield Main Street Association, producer of the event, is expecting an even greater turnout with their new additions to the festival. While it is a fairly local event, guests are expected to travel from as far as Sacramento to Contra Costa to San Jose.

The Tomato Festival is an event put on for the community, by the community. “We probably use over 100 volunteers,” says Margaret Manzo, Executive Director of the Fairfield Main Street Association. Travis Air Force Base also plays a huge role in the festival by loaning over the power equipment, generators and manpower. “We couldn’t do it without them,” Manzo says. “They bring a whole crew to help set up, and volunteer throughout the festival. Both Air Force and Navy crews offer their services.” But it doesn’t stop there. “From the city manager all the way down, the City of Fairfield staff is out there chopping tomatoes.”

Many may ask, of all things, why tomatoes? When the festival first began 20 years ago, tomatoes accounted for the leading cash crop in Solano County; they resurfaced as the leading cash crop again in 2009. “If the weather cooperates, we try to get all of our heirloom tomatoes from Suisun,” says Manzo. “Last year was a very cool summer so some of the tomatoes came from Dixon.” About 1,500 pounds of tomatoes will be chopped throughout this two-day event. From sweet to salty to meaty, you’re going to find the widest range of tomato samplings around.

With no gate, no entrance fee and the 20th anniversary celebration, “We think it’s going to be a much bigger draw this year,” Manzo says. One of the most exciting additions this year is a ticketed wine and food tasting portion of the event. “It’s our attempt to have a little something for everyone,” she continues. “Our wineries are not interested in pouring wine in the summer heat, so we decided to add the event inside the Solano County Events Center.” At only $15, your ticket comes with a commemorative glass and a raffle ticket for a case of local wine.

Other attractions include two music stages featuring performances by 12 different bands of nearly every musical genre including Modern Day Kids and the Time Bandits. The Wizard of Oz will be playing as a family movie option along with a costume contest. Also, in partnership with Ford Fairfield, the main sponsor of the event, attendees will have the opportunity to attempt to win a Ford Mustang or $50,000 in cash. There will be a plexiglass prize vault with a digital keypad. Festivalgoers can try and guess the six-digit code. If nobody guesses the code, nobody wins, but it’s exciting and you can guess as many times as you want.

Many people may not be aware of this, but 30% of the Tomato Festival’s budget is actually funded from the City of Fairfield’s Redevelopment Agency. “The purpose of the event is to attract consumers to downtown,” says Manzo. “We want people to come downtown, shop, dine and discover something that they may have not otherwise discovered. Its purpose is to boost the economy.” As redevelopment funds are diminishing in the state of California, Manzo states that the festival “needs to become self-sufficient. We’re hoping that eventually happens through sponsorships.”

Over the past 20 years the Tomato Festival has grown to be an iconic event for the city of Fairfield. “It’s one of those treasured community events,” Manzo says. “While a lot of people have opinions about what it should be or shouldn’t be, the fact of the matter is, people look forward to it year after year. It’s just a fun, family, community event and it celebrates our agricultural history in Solano County.”

The event is scheduled for August 20-21, 2011. For more information visit www.fairfieldmainstreet.com.

California Candy Festival

From the years 2000-2008, some Solano County residents may recall attending what was known as the Fairfield Candy Festival. It’s been a few years, but now the festival is under new management and is scheduled to make its enhanced return as the California Candy Festival later this year, reclaiming its title of the “sweetest” event in Solano.

Originally under the control of the Fairfield Main Street Association, the producers of the Tomato Festival, the California Candy Festival is now in the hands of the Fairfield and Suisun Public Education Foundation (FASPEF), as deemed by the Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce. FASPEF is one of the chamber’s leadership groups formed to give back to the community. “The mission [of FASPEF] is to benefit the kids in educational programs of Fairfield, Suisun and Travis school districts,” says Richard Garwacki, Festival Producer and chamber member.

The California Candy Festival is to be held over a lot of 15-acres, which will include the Jelly Belly Candy Company, its visitors center and parking lot. The festival is to be divided into three main attractions: Tasty Treats, Big Fun and Sweet Music.

For the Tasty Treats section, the name says it all. Featuring not just candy vendors but chocolatiers, confectioners, snacks, desserts, cupcakeries, ice cream and popcorn vendors, some of whom are coming from across the U.S. “We also have some Food Network personalities and award winning food truck restaurants and carts,” says Garwacki. Sift, a cupcakerie, will be present as winners of the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, as well as Gerard’s Paella from Occidental as featured in a Throwdown with Bobby Flay.

“We’re really after some family fun for adults, as well as kids,” Garwacki says. “We’re going to be doing a chocolate and wine pairing for parents, working with the [Suisun Valley Vintners & Growers Association] in putting together a very fun wine and chocolate experience.”

In addition to the tasty treats there is “Big Fun” to be had. “We’re going to have a kids area with rides, attractions, games, pony rides, a three-story-tall 150-foot zip line, ‘spider zone’ and slide…” Garwacki goes on, “and a special promo called the ‘zip and dip.’ Basically we’re getting 10 local celebrities/community members that get strapped into the zip line, down 150 feet and land in a tank of gooey chocolate fun, all for dollars being raised for FASPEF.”

But it’s not just all yum and games at the California Candy Festival, there’s also some “Sweet Music” to be heard throughout the event. The event’s headliner is Malo, an 11-piece Latin rock jazz band whose members include Jorge Santana (brother to the famous Carlos) and Pete Escovedo. The event also features the band Sugar Rush (keeping with the festival theme) and 16-year-old country-western singer McKenna Faith.

An interesting aspect of the candy festival is their goal to throw the world’s largest “Candy Party,” by which they mean that anyone with the name Candy, or any variation thereof, gets in for free. “We’re actually checking in to see what the Guinness Book of World Records has to say,” Garwacki says. “We’re going to gather as many people named Candy as we can.”

Tens of thousands of people were known to attend the Fairfield Candy Festival years ago; with that goal in mind, the California Candy Festival needs to slowly build up to that same following. “We’re hoping for 8-9,000 folks,” says Garwacki. He hopes to develop this event to contend with the Garlic Festival or the Asparagus Festival. “Doing our research, there doesn’t seem to be anything like this in the United States,” he says. “These various elements offer some great possibilities. We really want to grow the California Candy Festival to have Fairfield become known for this regional branding event.”

The event is scheduled for September 24, 2011. Ticket prices are $10 for adults; kids 12 and under get in for free. $25 VIP tickets will be available as well, and active and retired service members and their families get in for $5 each. For more information visit: www.californiacandyfestival.com.

Art Wine and Chocolate

As if that all weren’t enough – Suisun City is “Happening” as well! Come join the fun at the 7th annual Waterfront Festival featuring “Art Wine and Chocolate”. The free event will be held on Saturday, October 1st from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Suisun City Historic Waterfront (Main and Solano Streets). Wine tasting is available for $20 and includes a commemorative wine glass and eight 1 oz. pours or a full glass of wine (proof of age is required). Why should you go?

Enjoy the ambiance of the Suisun Waterfront while browsing the 70+ artist and artisan booths.

Sip wine from local award winning and up-and-coming Suisun Valley and Solano County wineries.

Indulge in fine chocolate candy, cupcakes, fudge and other chocolate culinary delights.

Enjoy live music center stage: “The Broadway Street Rockers” 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and “Inner Soul” 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Great food booths, lots of fun, children’s activities, KUIC 95.3 and more!

It promises to be a fun family event with something for everyone to enjoy! Check out www.suisunwaterfront.com.

Come browse the artisan booths set up along the beautiful waterfront, enjoy samples of delicious chocolate and find a new favorite wine at the wine tasting booth. See you there!

For vendor or visitor information please call (707) 399-7195 or brendamossa@aol.com.

These are just a few of the great festivals that happen around us everyday. Make sure to check out our online calendar for a more complete list and start enjoying more of these great Local Happenings today!

By Matt Larson: Matt Larson is not just a writer, he does lots of other stuff with his time. Example? Sure! He hosts stand-up comedy shows and would like YOU to attend on August 28, 2011 at the Fetterley Playhouse in Vallejo! Info @ www.thecomedycircuit.com.