The Olive Festival: A Regional Celebration of More Than Just Olives

Located at the San Benito County Historical Park, this year's Olive Festival allowed participants to get a taste of San Benito County and products from the surrounding region
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The annual Olive Festival took place Saturday Oct. 14 at the San Benito County Historical Park in Tres Pinos. Although numbers haven't been finalized, event organizers say roughly 1,600 attended the festival.

Highlighting regional artisans and agriculture, this event drew people from surrounding counties, as well as cities as far away as Fresno and San Francisco. Pour Director Bryan Swanson explained what drew people to this event, “The location is extremely unique. It allows people to escape urban life”. Located just outside the town of Tres Pinos, the Historical Park contains old-time buildings and agricultural equipment bringing a refreshing change from the bustle of everyday life. Swanson further explained, “We have a lot of character left in San Benito County. Hollister is maintaining that kind of agricultural expertise. It’s like the raw West with rolling hills and Spanish oak trees.”

This agriculture expertise could be seen and tasted in regionally created olive oils, wines, beers, and live cooking demonstrations. Chris Brigantino, co-owner of Brigantino Olive Oil, shared his passion for the Olive Festival saying, “The main thing that makes the Olive Festival unique is that most of the olive oil people are tasting here is local. We have a similar climate to Tuscany.” Echoing this sentiment, fellow co-owner Dave Brigantino elaborated on the draw of this event explaining that the Olive Festival, “brings a lot of people from the community out and people from out of town. We have people from Monterey, the Bay Area, and the Central Valley all here.”

According to Kathina Szeto, the group’s dream of diverse attendees four years ago is coming to fruition. Szeto has helped organize the event from the beginning. She explained the vision of the festival, “is to continue building awareness of regional culinary agriculture, premier artisans, with net-proceeds returning to local non-profits”. The event is partially made possible by local groups and individuals stepping up to volunteer at the event. Szeto shared that over 200 people volunteered this year and credits them with helping make the vision of the Olive Festival come to be.

Szeto says the festival is about more than just agriculture. Parents could take their children to create a scarecrow, a piece of art, and/or go on a nature walk led by retired teacher Jim Ostdick. There were also local artisan booths. First time participant Allison Barnes said it was special for local artists to be able to share their artwork locally. Other regional artists showcased their photography, stained glass, ceramics, woodworking, and mixed medium pieces.

Adults interested in tasting beer and wine created in the region, enjoyed the V.I.P. section of the event. Jacqueline McAbbe, V.I.P. wine tasting chair, explained that wines had been carefully chosen over a six month period to create the best experience possible. The V.I.P. section also included a beer garden where people could sit on bales of hay and admire a classic 1931 Chevy truck.

Throughout the event families, couples, and groups of friends could be seen enjoying their experience, whether they were savoring a stuffed olive or sitting and listening to one of many musical groups performing during the event.

Classes were also available for people wanting to have a hands-on experience. Sticking with the olive theme, wreath-making classes were started with the ringing of the school bell in the old school house building at the park. Bea Chang taught the wreath making class. She and Szeto decided to add this event to the program so participants could have something that “ties the festival together”. Olive branches were used to create the wreaths and people attending the class were then able to take a memorable piece of the festival home with them.


To learn about participating in the event next year, go on the organization’s webpage at


Becky Bonner

Becky Bonner is a local teacher at San Benito High School who is passionate about sharing things to do in San Benito County.