An estimated 35,000 lemon lovers were happy to be left with a sour taste in their mouth this weekend after attending the 15th Annual California Lemon Festival in Goleta’s Girsh Park.
The Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce provided nonstop entertainment for the free festival, kicking the festivities off with a 5K run organized by Girls Inc. – a Santa Barbara-based nonprofit youth group for adolescent girls – followed by a special helicopter landing. A car show, booths featuring items from local vendors and children’s activities complimented a plethora of lemon-flavored food for sale to the event’s attendees.
Besides food-themed amusement, event coordinators also arranged music performances by Joel Clemons & The Lemons, Area 51, Iration and a show by the UCSB Dance Team. The grounds for the festival were simultaneously used for the Goleta Fall Classic Car, Motorcycle and Street Rod Show – bringing vintage Camaros, old Woodies and ornate motorcycles to the park.
Local vendors filled their booths with handcrafted jewelry, costumes, African masks and other artistry. In addition to offering citrus delights, other food vendors at the event offered bratwurst, barbecue sandwiches and beer and wine tasting. Some of the vendors donated their profits to charitable causes – South Coast Church, a Goleta Christian institution, gave all proceeds from their sales at the festival to programs that provide safe and sanitary water to people in Africa.
Children’s activities included miniature golf, laser tag, stock car racing, rock climbing and a moon bounce. In the Safety Zone, a special area displaying modern and traditional emergency-response equipment, attendees were able to tour ambulances, helicopters and a 1902 horse-drawn steam fire engine.
Festival coordinators said the wide array of attractions and lemon-licious food drew a huge crowd to the festival.
“The festival [went] well,” John Cox, master of ceremonies for the event, said. “There [was] a large turnout this year. The car show and the motorcycle show are big draws for people. The pie contest is a big and fun event for both kids and adults.”
Richard Schneider, president of the Santa Barbara-based Edelweiss Choir, said the crowd at his group’s bratwurst booth – a booth they have hosted for several years – was smaller than in the past.
“We’ve been here for almost 10 years and have enjoyed every year,” Schneider said. “It is a little slow this year. Although we gain more profit at other festivals, we still have a good time.”
Although this is only the 15th annual celebration of the Lemon Festival, the production of lemons has been an important business in Goleta for over a century.
According to the festival’s website www.lemonfestival.com, the celebration of lemons in the area stems from late Goleta resident Sherman Stow, a citrus farmer who planted the seeds for a local flourishing lemon community in the 1890s. Although the presence of lemons has diminished in modern-day Goleta due to the growth of tract housing construction, the festival continues as a tribute to the sweet and sour citrus.
Lemon Festival Chair Patricia Fabing said lemons are significant to the local community and that people attend the festival to share in the fun that celebrates a big part of the history of Goleta and the state of California.