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Fallbrook prepares for 24th annual Avocado Festival

Fallbrook will once again host tens of thousands of people this Sunday, April 18, when visitors converge on its annual signature event, the Avocado Festival, sponsored by the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce.

“It looks like this year’s festival is going to be a wonderful one,” says Gary Shimer, who is serving his first year as chairman of the festival. A member of the Chamber for well over a decade, Shimer says a large group of dedicated volunteers is what leads to a successful festival year after year.

“There are some wonderful people working on this and I am happy to be involved with it,” says Shimer.

The event, which usually draws close to 75,000 attendees if weather is good, will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the primary venue extending down Main Avenue from East Mission on the north to approximately Beech Street on the south. The main festival area will be comprised of approximately 300 vendor booths offering produce, crafts, clothing, jewelry, artwork, food and beverage, refreshment (beer) gardens with live music, and educational materials and resources offered by local businesses, service organizations and agencies.

A special section called ‘Avocado Avenue’ will feature all kinds of products made with or depicting the popular green fruit. Food booths will be split into two locations – half at the north end of the festival and half at the south end, which places them in close proximity to the refreshment gardens.

Live bands will be performing in each of the two refreshment gardens from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. At the corner of Main and Beech, Blue Zone, a classic rock and roll and blues band will be entertaining and at Main and Ivy, Salt Creek, a country rock ensemble will play.

Fallbrook’s Connections Networking group will once again sponsor a beer and wine tasting event in the Village Square (corner of Main and Alvarado) during the festival. Wineries currently lined up for the tasting event are Wilson Creek, Windy Ridge, Cougar, PRP Wine Distributors & Mad House Wife. Breweries include Stone and Palm, each sharing a couple of different brews.

While the economy has been sluggish, Shimer says vendor participation is still very strong. “We will be just as full as last year, give or take a handful or so,” says Shimer. “The economy is affecting everything, but this is how these vendors make their living. I also feel it provides for an escape for people. They come to have a good time at a good venue and escape some of the tough times that are out there.” The annual economic impact of the festival has been gauged in each of the past few years to be about $1.5 million.

Contests have become a traditional part of the festival each year and this year will be no different. Amateur and professional cooks can compete in the Guacamole Contest. In each category, first and second place winners will be selected for Best Tasting Guacamole and Best Presentation. Those wishing to enter the guacamole competitions should download an application from http://www.fallbrookchamberofcommerce.org and bring their deliciously prepared concoction to the CAST parking lot at the corner of Main and Ivy between noon and 12:45 p.m. the day of the festival. Judging will begin at 1 p.m. sharp.

Kids will once again have the opportunity to enter the Best Dressed Avocado Contest, the Avo 500, and the Little Miss or Mister

Elementary school age children can bring an avocado they have dressed up in a theme to the CAST parking lot at 200 N. Main between 9 and 10:30 a.m. to register for the contest. Judging begins at 11 a.m. and the winning entry will be decided on the basis of originality, creativity, and use of materials.

The Avo 500 can also be entered by elementary school age kids. Free supplies are offered for those who would like to build an avocado race car at the festival and compete in the Stock Car race. Avocados and parts will be provided.

For those kids who want to prepare their avocado race car at home in advance, they can bring it to the festival and compete in the Modified Cars category. The only limit is the wheelbase of the “race car” cannot exceed eight inches.

For local children looking to be an ambassador for their community, the Little Miss & Mister Avocado contest will be offered to girls and boys ages four to eight. Kids entering the contest must be willing to get up on the stage with Miss Fallbrook and her court, answer a few fun questions, and smile. This is for local youth only. Parents are asked to register their children for the contest between 10 and 11 a.m. that day, with the process to start at 11 a.m. All children receive a participation certificate and a prize.

Live entertainment will take place throughout the day at the Community Stage in the CAST parking lot. A wide variety of talent will be on display for the entertainment of the crowd.

In addition to the primary downtown venue, three additional offsite attractions will be offered for those interested in expanding their adventure. Those locations include the Fallbrook Airpark, Fallbrook Historical Society Museum, and the Fallbrook Gem & Mineral Society Museum. A shuttle service will run a continuous circuit from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from the Fallbrook High School parking lot to the downtown area and the three offsite attractions. The shuttle will pick up and drop off at the south end of the festival near Beech Street and Main Ave.

Fallbrook Airpark, located at 2155 South Mission Road, will hold an Open House from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. that will include flying demonstrations, performances by nearly 100 radio-controlled model planes and helicopters, an assortment of vintage planes, firefighting water drop demonstrations, a flight simulator and aeronautical displays. Hamburgers and hot dogs will be available for purchase at this site by the Friends of the Fallbrook Airpark.

The Fallbrook Historical Society Museum, located at the corner of Rockycrest Road and South Hill, will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to allow visitors and local residents an opportunity to explore Fallbrook history and examine interesting artifacts.

The Fallbrook Gem & Mineral Society Museum, which can be found at 123 West Alvarado Street, near the intersection of Alvarado and Main in the downtown district, will open its doors from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on festival day. By stepping through these doors, one can see a vibrant and intriguing display of rich gems, minerals and other artifacts found in the Fallbrook region.

The results of the Art of the Avocado contest, which takes place prior to the festival, will be on display at the Pinnell Gallery at 124 N. Main. How artists incorporated the avocado into their images is certain to be inspiring.

“The art will remain in the gallery for a month after the festival also,” says Shimer. The logistics of organizing, managing, setting up and tearing down a festival of this size, is no small task, Shimer explains.

“Some of our volunteers don’t sleep for 48 hours on festival weekend,” he says. “We have block captains on duty at 5 a.m. to help the vendors find their spots and set up. We have a volunteer from the Fallbrook Amateur Radio Club assigned to every block caption and they stay with them throughout the day. They provide a terrific service for us.”

Shimer says law enforcement agencies and the local fire district play instrumental roles as well.

“The California Highway Patrol handles the perimeter, concerning traffic control and the Sheriff’s Department handles the security inside the festival,” says Shimer. “The Sheriff’s Senior Volunteer Patrol will have 60 volunteers there that day and the Sheriff’s Explorers will be helping too.”

“North County Fire is always there to make sure everything is safe [operationally] in the festival area and to provide medical assistance as needed.”

“All of these groups have been wonderful when it comes to making this thing come together,” says Shimer.

One thing attendees need to be aware of, Shimer says, is that the festival does not permit pets, for several reasons.

“We do offer a pet sitting area by the intersection of Main and Alvarado called ‘Park Your Pet,’” he explains. “It will be manned by volunteers from the Fallbrook Animal Sanctuary from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.”

For Shimer, it’s like inviting a bunch of people to your home, he says. “This and the Christmas Parade are the biggest events we put on in town. It’s like when someone comes to your home; you want to put your best foot forward and that’s what we feel we’re doing with our festival. We want everyone to feel welcome. People can relax; enjoy the day; sample lots of different foods; and purchase interesting items from vendors.”

“We are very proud of [the festival],” says Shimer.

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