Organizers played host to guests from around the region and the state at the second annual Olive Festival on Oct. 11, an event designed to celebrate the culinary agriculture of San Benito County as well as to fundraise for a number of local nonprofit groups.
“I think it [the festival] is fantastic,” vendor Donna Hagins said while assisting customers at her booth, representing San Juan Valley Spice. “I think we have the beginnings of a Garlic Festival.”
Held at Bolado Park in Tres Piños, the 2014 Olive Festival featured 40 vendors, including local fruit and olive growers, area artists and food vendor, more than a dozen wineries, as well as cooking demonstrations and performances from local musicians and bands.
As of Monday morning, organizers hadn’t yet tallied the number of guests who attended, but hoped that it would more than double the 1,000 attendees that came through the gates of Paicines Ranch for the inaugural event in 2013. The event was moved from Paicines Ranch to Bolado Park in order to accommodate an expected larger crowd.
Festivities included presentations by Marich Confectionery as well as several celebrity chefs, such as Dorothy McNett, the cooking team of SakaBozzo, along with Mike Fisher and David Boswell. Musical performers at the event included Mr. O’s Jazz Band, Shiloh and the Flashbacks on the big stage.
Another draw for attendees was the VIP tent, which allowed guests who purchased VIP admission to taste several varieties of local wines and craft beers.
Kathina Szeto, owner of San Benito Bene in downtown Hollister and president of the San Benito Olive Festival Board of Directors, said she was pleased with the event. “We’re happy with our second annual event and thrilled by the support of our community.”
According to San Benito Olive Festival Board of Directors member Kristen Wynn, the olive branch served as welcoming symbol to those visiting the area for the first time as a result of the event. Wynn, representing Marich Confectionery, is also a hospitality and event planner.
“The diversity and quality of attendees is impressive,” Wynn added, noting that the event had drawn vendors from as far away as San Luis Obispo.
Wynn said she was also pleased that the event would benefit local nonprofit organizations. Each hour spent working various shifts at the festival by the approximately 175 volunteers earned their organization a contribution in return. As of Monday, organizers hadn’t calculated the total money earned that would be given to local groups but said the donations would be made in coming months.
At the end of the evening the festival’s Olive Oil Award was announced, decided by a panel of anonymous judges, as well as the winner of the drawing for a bicycle from the Specialized Bicycles in Morgan Hill.
For most attendees, however, the event served as an opportunity to sample local food and wine in the company of friends and family while enjoying the crisp afternoon weather
“It’s my first time at the Olive Festival,” area resident Herman Estrada remarked “There is a lot of good tastings from the area. It is nice to have a festival to celebrate the community.”
Kathy Sakahara had just arrived at the festival, but commented that she was already enjoying the food. “The food is fabulous,” she said. “Kuki’s Bowl is out of this world.”
Friends Carolyn Granger and Devon Carlson agreed that they enjoyed the olive bar provided at the festival that allowed visitors to sample many types of local olives.
“It is amazing,” Granger added, “This is my first time and I am awestruck.”
The olive serves as a great symbol for the mission of the event, according to Whitney Pintello, executive director of the San Benito Olive Festival, in representing local agriculture.
Pintello’s position was created by the San Benito Olive Festival Board of Directors this year, in response to the growth that the organizers hoped to see from the inaugural festival in 2013.
Even with administrative support, the event would not have been possible without the help of the volunteers from a variety of local groups and nonprofit organizations as well as the many sponsors of the event, Pintello said.