Califonia Bountiful

Festival proclaims, "Three spears for this springtime favorite"

It was bunches of fun for the young and old at the 18th annual Stockton Asparagus Festival.

It was bunches of fun for the young and old at the 18th annual Stockton Asparagus Festival. Upwards of 100,000 people attend the festival during the last weekend of April, eating nearly 26,000 pounds of asparagus over the three-day extravaganza.

This unique event features things not typically seen at other festivals. For example, there was a high-flying, disk-snatching dog show, as well as the "Got Milk?" half pipe, which sent skateboarders, bikers and in-line skaters flying into the sky all afternoon. There was a handmade craft show, which is ranked as one of the top 200 in the country. Car connoisseurs enjoyed a classic car show and athletes could take part in the 5k "Spear-It Run." Wine tasters no doubt stopped by the "Spear-it of the Valley" wine and beer pavilion. There were also attractions for the little ones. Many children played in the "AsparaZone," where there were amusements, games, rides and slides. There were also three entertainment stages with a variety of sounds, from gospel to rock and jazz to country.

But the main attractions were those loveable little spears. There was only one thing on most people's minds: eating, and this was the perfect place to come. At the heart of the festival was the 8,000 square-foot "Asparagus Alley," where you could find everyone's favorite green stalks in a variety of shapes and forms. Some of the menu items included: asparagus beef sandwich (tri-tip), an "asparaburrito," asparagus pasta, asparagus margaritas and deep-fried asparagus. The deep-fried asparagus is one of the festival's biggest hits, with organizers predicting that 10 tons of it would be sold over the three days. Volunteers were prepared, having 26 deep fryers and 16 service windows ready for the onslaught of hungry asparagus lovers.

With all this great food to choose from, who better to talk about cooking with the springtime favorite than some of the most renowned chefs in the world? The celebrity kitchen featured restaurateur and TV/radio personality Narsai David and chef Martin Yan, who is host of his widely popular syndicated TV show Yan Can Cook. Yan has also authored 25 books and enjoyed being able to cook with fresh, healthy ingredients and have a good time along the way.

Putting on this large event is no easy task, and it took nearly 1,600 people to pull if off without a hitch. Most are volunteers who donate their time over the three days to work in the 20,000 square-foot tents. They have an added interest to the success of the festival, as all the money raised will go to the nonprofit groups and agencies whose volunteers staffed the event. Since its start in 1985, the Asparagus Festival has raised some $2 million for local charities.

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