Art & Wine Festival Back and better than ever

The Santa Clara Art & Wine Festival is back after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, and for the 20,000 people who came out on September 17th and 18th, it was one big Welcome Back party. Even the showers on and off on Sunday couldn’t dampen spirits.

“He brings us [City staff] I’m glad to see everyone come out to the park and enjoy the day,” said Parks & Rec Director Kim Castro.

There was plenty of fun entertainment, lots of delicious treats—including an offering of fruit, olives, and cheeses from the sister cities that complemented the tasting—and, of course, extensive beer and wine offerings from national and local brewers and vintners.

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But the biggest plus was the wide variety of interesting vendors. Only handmade handicrafts and works of art are allowed and the city aims for originality and diversity in its offerings.

Tony Zhao was there with his architectural, 3D pop-up cards, all made by his family in San Mateo. Zhou explained that he learned the craft from his father, who made stencils for Chinese New Year decorations and opened his family business, Holiday Pop Cards in 2015. The business has been good, Zhao said, and he plans to return the next year.

At Linda’s Obsession, Linda Fussell agreed that work has been good this year.

“A lot of people are starving themselves to get back to some normalcy,” Fussell said.

Fussell’s signature species are jewel-like bead spiders and hermit crabs.

“That’s what happens when a crochet breaks,” she laughed, “so now I do wire and beads.”

At Wildflower Apothecary, Santa Clara resident Denise Stovall offered her decorative mini gardens and dried flower arrangements in pumpkins and gourds. The plants grow in moss that is attached to the gourd, which will last for months. When the pumpkin becomes soft, the plants can be planted in a pot.

Shopping wasn’t the only entertainment available. The live music brought many people out to dance, including Santa Clara residents Erica Rosero and her husband, Charlie Davis, who fantastically stumbled into the booth.

“Every year we come to the Art & Wine Festival,” Rosero said. “It makes me happy to be back again after COVID.”

40 years of sunshine (mostly) and good seasons

This year’s Santa Clara Art & Wine Festival was not only the first post-COVID festival, but it was also the 40th anniversary of the event, which has its roots in the city’s now-gone Festival days.

“It’s that time of year again,” wrote the Santa Clara Sun in its September 23, 1981 edition. October”.

Also featured in 1981 was a football game billed as “Santa Clara’s Super Bowl IV” between the “Deputy Dawgs” of the Santa Clara County Sheriffs and the “Police Porkers” of the Santa Clara Police Department.

In 1982, the art fair became an ancillary part of Festival Days and merely a prelude to the parade.

“For the first time this year, Festival Days activities will be extended to Santa Clara Central Park with a wine and art exhibit,” wrote the Santa Clara Sun in its September 29, 1982 edition. “Wine from Kirigin Cellars, Gugliemo Family Winery, Novitiate Winery and Mirassou will be sold together with commemorative Festival Days glasses.’

The Festival had a revised birthdate in 1983 when the event was billed by the Sun as the “3rd Annual Art, Wine Festival”. That year’s event included a book signing by author Peter Beagle (The Last Unicorn) performances by the band Sexy Senior Uke and a petting zoo with a camel.

By 1984, the tradition of the Festival was established.

“Visitors to the fourth annual Santa Clara Art & Wine Festival will enjoy music from jazz musicians and easy rock bands as they stroll the lake and Central Park pavilion to taste wines and view exhibits from more than 150 artists,” wrote the Santa Clara Sun in its September 26, 1984 edition.

Not all festivals were successful, however.

“Rain Dampens Wine and Art Festival,” wrote the Santa Clara Valley Weekly in September 1989, when attendance was estimated to be down 50 percent — legendary Santa Claran Cleo Stuckrath gave an account of the excess food in her column “Cleo’s Corner “. (Given Cleo’s amazing community activities, she no doubt made sure to find a useful home.)

Fortunately, there was little rain for the perennial event. Although Sunday’s showers slowed attendance this year, many vendors reported selling more in one day than they typically do at two-day festivals, according to Parks & Rec Director Castro.

The hard working team makes it possible

Much of the Parks & Rec department is involved in making the festival the success it is.

“They’ve worked for 10 months on logistics and operations, and 80 staff members worked on the event itself,” Castro said.

But the Parks & Rec department’s task force isn’t resting on its laurels. In a few weeks, they will start working on the 2023 Festival.

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