Soak up the Summer at These Central Coast Festivals
By Sami Zahringer
There’s something glorious about a festival. People from all walks of life gather together to honor traditions, or celebrate regional flavors and products, or just to revel in the sheer, sometimes quirky, joy of their passions. Festivals are part of human civilization the world over and, since time immemorial, they have taken us out of the mundane and given us the spectacle, color, music, and variety we crave in life. We mingle and eat and browse and eat and marvel and eat and eat and eat! In our bounteous region, local foods and specialties are some of the things we celebrate most, but summer festival season is also the best time of the year to soak up the rich diversity of activities and culture the area has to offer.
To get you enthused and to prove that there really is a festival for everyone, we at the California 101 Travelers Guide have rounded up a selection of some of the most interesting local fairs and festivals this summer. So grab your sunhat, your loved ones, and your GPS, and get on the road for all the fun!
Central Coast Lavender Festival 10 am to 5 pm City Park in downtown Paso Robles Free
For more information, see our story on pg. 9 in the San Luis Obispo section, or visit centralcoastlavender.com
July 10 to 14
Santa Barbara County Fair Santa Maria Fair park, 937 S Thornburg St., Santa Maria
For more information, see our story on pg. 31in the San Luis Obispo County section, and visit santamariafairpark.com for tickets, parking, and additional information.
July 11 to 21
Ventura Music Festival Legendary vocal groups The Manhattan Transfer and Take 6 come together in a unique “Summit” to headline the 25th edition of this mixed genre festival which also features classical guitar great Christopher Parkening in an intimate recital with baritone Jubilant Sykes, the young Calidore String Quartet, winners of the decade’s biggest prizes for chamber music; the band Incendio in a free community concert of high-octane Latin guitars; jazz phenom Joey Alexander who at 15 is deemed “a bonafide star and the brightest light in jazz piano;” soulful jazz, blues-y gospel, and joyful dance tunes created by Billboard sensation Ranky Tanky around stories and culture emanating from South Carolina’s Lowcountry. The Rastrelli Cello Quartet ends the festival with a dazzling crossover program ranging from Brahms to the Beatles and almost sure to win the ovations Rastrelli audiences are known for.
Tickets at venturamusicfestival.org or call 805-648-3146. Great music in a coastal beach town.
July 13 and 14
Santa Barbara French Festival
11 am to 7 pm
Santa Barbara’s Oak Park, 300 W Alamar Ave. and 600 W Junipero
A celebration of Bastille Day in Santa Barbara. The motto is: Joing le plaisir et être le Plaisir (Join the fun and be the fun!) One of Santa Barbara’s favorite festivals, the SB French Festival celebrates the exciting, rich, and entertaining French culture. It’s a dance festival, a music festival, an arts & crafts festival and, of course, a food festival. Enjoy great food, wine, mimosas, crepes, delicious pastries, music, and dance.
For two days, Santa Barbara celebrates its nickname “the American Riviera,” as French Festivities transform Oak Park. The stages will be filled with dance and music from more than 30 different acts. Check out festival favorites: the Edith Piaf and Django Reinhardt tributes, and the Femme Fatales Drag Revue. You will see Can-Can and French Polynesian dancers, West African Belly dancing, French arias, and The Accordion International Music Society of Santa Barbara.
Perhaps you’d like to engage your friends at the King’s Court in a game of Pétanque. (The Guide de St. Marie will be in residence throughout the Festival portraying the Court of Henri III circa 1580s.) Then maybe relax with some French wine, soda, or beer while you enjoy a demonstration of period armored combat. Join the French Conversation Booth, or shop for French tablecloths.
This is a free family event, with dogs more than welcome. Children can take part in the droid scavenger hunt, have their faces painted, or meet the participants of the Canine Cavalcade, which is a parade of visitors — you! — and their dogs in a celebration of man’s best friend. There are more than 60 vendors selling all things French. (Yes, including berets!)
Admission and entertainment on all 3 stages is free. For more information visit frenchfestival.com
• Ventura Surf Rodeo and Street Fair 8 am to 8 pm each day Ventura Pier $40 and up
Head over to the Ventura Surf Rodeo, where the music meets the sand! Billing itself as the biggest beach party on the West Coast, Surf Rodeo is a 2-day festival of surfing and music at Ventura Pier, featuring more than 30 bands, surf competitions for all ages, a cowgirl and cowboy bikini contest, the world’s largest beach cornhole tournament, beer gardens on the sand, a bucking mechanical bull, a food court, and lots of vendors.
Surf Rodeo prides itself on being a platform for world-renowned surfers, musicians, and artists. This is a kid-friendly event and there is a Kids Corral to keep your little ones happy. Ticket sales for this event support Paw Works and a variety of local organizations serving youth.
Tickets are $40 for a Saturday or a Sunday pass, and $55 for a weekend pass. A VIP ticket for $2,500 gets you admission tickets for up to eight guests, dedicated VIP entry lane into the festival, a private VIP cabana with views of the main stage, VIP cabana laminate, VIP beer and wine service, a case of beer, water, and a bottle of wine or champagne per day, plus a snack tray. Outside alcohol is not permitted.
For tickets and more information, visit surfrodeo.org
July 17 to 28
California Mid-State Fair 2198 Riverside Ave, Paso Robles
For more tickets and information, see our story on pg. 13 in the San Luis Obispo County section, and see midstatefair.com.
Funk Zone Art Walk , 5 to 8 pm Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone , Free
The Arts Fund of Santa Barbara started the Funk Zone Art Walk five years ago to highlight the neighborhood’s vibrant artistic community and support local businesses. The Funk Zone Art Walk occurs on the third Friday of every other month. On July 19, more than a dozen artist studios, galleries, and art-centric venues will open their doors to the public, making it the ideal opportunity to casually experience the Funk Zone’s cultural explosion of recent years.
At any given venue, visitors can expect events such as exhibition openings, artist receptions, open studios, insightful art lectures or demonstrations, live music and performances, pop-up artist booths, beer and wine tastings, and various other interactive activities. This community event regularly hosts hundreds of guests and supports local artists, galleries and businesses.
Visit funkzone.net to view more details about past and upcoming walks, see a map of the Funk Zone and a Directory of the Artists and Vendors.
July 20 & 21
Central Coast Renaissance Festival, 10am – 6pm Laguna Lake Park, Madonna Road, San Luis Obispo , Cost: $15 – $20
The 35th annual festival features four stages of entertainment including authentic music, dance, plays, comedy skits, acrobatics, a pirate bird show and free-flying falconry. A main attraction is full force armored combat as seen on The History Channel’s “Knight Fight.” Twice daily contests include one-on-one single combat, as well as brutal team battles of 5 vs 5, which will be contested until one team is driven from the field.
The family friendly event includes face painting, games, a magic show and a pirate ship where kids can attend Buccaneer Boot Camp to learn swashbuckling with balloon swords. Sunday is “Pirate Day” with a treasure hunt. A costume contest for kids is held both days and every entry gets a prize.
Shoppers love the unique artisan marketplace where a wide variety of delicious food and drink will keep everyone refreshed.
Parking on site is $8 per car, but reduced to $5 if there are four or more in a vehicle, so carpooling is rewarded. No outside alcohol or pets are allowed.
Tickets & Information at ccrenfaire.com
July 24 to Aug. 24
Festival Mozaic ,Various times and locations , Ticket prices vary
Festival Mozaic is an annual celebration of music featuring renowned musicians from all over the world, and takes place at a variety of locations on California’s beautiful Central Coast in San Luis Obispo County. The 49-year-old festival consists of chamber music concerts, orchestra performances, and crossover music from contemporary and experimental artists with an emphasis on making the art of music accessible to all. There are educational events, and free community events including mini-concerts, family concerts, master classes, lectures, and open rehearsals. In the signature Notable Encounters series, festival musicians present interactive performance demonstrations of chamber music “in interesting spaces,” paired with gourmet Central Coast food and wine.
This year, led by music director and violinist Scott Yoo, the theme of the festival is “Music of the Old World,” exploring the influence of Spanish and Middle Eastern musical traditions on Western classical music. The Festival musicians hail from the top classical music ensembles in the country including the Cleveland Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and many others.
Also worth noting about this event is that the cover art for the brochures features the work of Joanne Beaule Ruggles. Professor Emeritus Ruggles taught studio art for 30 years at California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, winning the university’s Distinguished Research Award in 2004.
There are various venues for the Festival Mozaic, but the main ones are: Serra Chapel, Shandon; The Harold J. Miossi Cultural & Performing Arts Center at Cuesta College; and Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.
Festival all-pass tickets are not offered, but packages are available.
For detailed information on individual ticketing options and the schedule, visit festivalmozaic.com, or call (805) 781-3009 or (877) 881-8899. The website has an excellent and comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions page, which is well worth checking out before you go: festivalmozaic.com/festival-faqs
July 27 and 28
Santa Barbara Greek Festival , 11 am to 7 pm Oak Park area of Mission Creek at 600 W Junipero Street, Santa Barbara , Free
The popular Greek Festival, now in its 45th year, is the oldest running festival in Santa Barbara and regularly attracts about 5,000 people over the two days in July. The festival aims to evoke the sights, sounds and tastes that define the traditional Greek way of life, and it is true — everything is better with feta! In addition to the mouthwatering Greek delicacies on the menu, there will be traditional Greek folk dancers, Greek music, Greek cooking demonstrations, and don’t forget to enter the raffle for two free tickets to Athens! Opa!
For more details, visit santabarbaragreekfestival.org
July 31 to Aug. 11
Ventura County Fair, Seaside Park, Ventura
For tickets and more information, see our story on pg. 53 in the Ventura County section, and visit venturacountyfair.org
Harmony Wine and Beer Festival , 1 to 4:30 pm, 2177 Old Creamery Road, Harmony $49 and $59
Following a runaway success with its first festival last year, which attracted upwards of 600 hungry, thirsty people to the tiny town, organizers planned this year to be even bigger and better with more food vendors, a longer event, and expanded parking. Ticket holders get unlimited pours from 18 vendors as they taste their way down quaint Harmony’s only street, lined with local wineries and breweries, food trucks, and the Harmony Valley Creamery Scoop Truck.
From 1:30 pm onwards, The Chad Land Band will keep things lively with tunes in a Classic/Southern Rock and Blues vibe. Funds raised from ticket sales will support Infant Essentials, a local nonprofit organization that provides infant necessities to homeless and low-income infants, from 0 to 3 years old, in San Luis Obispo County. Infant Essentials works closely with organizations like The Family Care Network, Women’s Shelter, CAPSLO and SLOCOE.
Early bird pricing is $49 per person until June 15. After June 15, tickets are $59 per person. This event is for adults 21 and older.
For tickets, go to HarmonyWineAndBeerFestival.com or call (805) 927-1625
Olallieberry Festival, 11 am to 4 pm , Cambria Historical Society, 2251 Center St., Cambria, Free
Experience the Olallieberry — “King of the Blackberries!” This family-friendly event celebrates Cambria’s famous berry. Local vendors will offer olallieberry treats, drinks, local wine and beer, crafts, and art. There will be live music, a dessert contest and kids’ activities.
Contact Cambria Chamber of Commerce at (805) 927-3624 or visit cambriaolallieberryfestival.com for more details.
Avila Apple Festival , All day , Downtown Avila Beach, Free
For the sixth year, Avila Valley growers will gather to show off their wares. Sample the fruits of their labors with an apple-themed dinner, tastings of the many apple varietals and apple wines, and both live and silent auctions. What a lovely, crisply delicious way to welcome in the fall!
Visit avilaapplefestival.com for more information.
Avocado and Margarita Street Festival ,10 am to 7 pm , Morro Bay’s Embarcadero at 714 Embarcadero Dr., Morro Bay , $5 and up (kids 10 and under are free)
The Avocado and Margarita Street Festival website sports the following quote: “Quite possibly the best day of my entire life!!!” – Signed, Everyone, Ever.
And that might say it all, but there’s more! The event is a celebration featuring the California Central Coast’s love for wonderful flavors and tasty culinary dishes. It supports many local organizations, and the goal is to shine a spotlight on the region’s amazing, fresh-off-the-tree variety of California avocado, while providing visitors with high-quality premium margaritas, street-faire entertainment, live music, specialty foods and the highly sought-after Grove, where chefs indulge guests in step-above-the-rest mouth-watering and tantalizing avocado-themed dishes.
All of this is under sunny skies on the picturesque Morro Bay waterfront. There is very little here not to love (unless you are a dog; they’re not allowed for safety reasons). This is a family-friendly festival with fun events like the best sombrero competition, magic shows, a mini-avocado toss, and the chance to win a year’s supply of California avocados.
Kids 10-years-and-under are free and there is a “Grom Zone” to keep them occupied. Check out their website for more information and schedule of events at avomargfest.com.
For a more intimate experience, try “Taste of The Grove” Sept. 8, at The Packing Shed in Morro Bay. A variety of avocado-themed dishes are paired with wine, beer, and hand-crafted cocktails. Make a weekend of it! Accommodation is good in Morro Bay, but rooms get booked up early, so check in advance.
Sept. 14 and 15
Santa Barbara Sea Glass & Ocean Arts Festival , Saturday 10 am to 5 pm; Sunday till 4 pm , Earl Warren Showgrounds, 3400 Calle Real, Santa Barbara, $5 to $15
Now in its fifth year, this festival is a celebration of ocean-inspired art and jewelry. For jewelry-lovers this is a treat, but it’s more than just a vehicle to showcase the work of around 45 local sea-glass artists. The festival will also present talks on marine pollution, and hold workshops on sea-glass identification, sun-dyeing, and wire-wrapping techniques, so budding jewelry makers can begin to explore for themselves the serendipitous art of found objects.
True to the event’s ethos of sustainability, minimizing plastic use, and keeping California clean and beautiful, a portion of all tickets bought this year will go to The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, and all food utensils will be reusable and recyclable.
For details visit santabarbaraseaglassandoceanartsfestival.com