MONTEREY, Calif. (KION) If you've driven through the 156 and 183 highways, you've seen infinite rows of Jurassic-looking plants growing from the side of the highways. Spanish settlers originally brought the artichoke to California, and since 1922 it's been was largely cultivated in Castroville. Now, they're hosted their 61st Annual Artichoke Festival in Monterey County Fairground from July 24 to July 25.
The Artichoke Festival was been canceled for the first time since 1959, last year due to the pandemic. This year, organizers expected to bring back all the festival favorites from the cooking demonstrations to the artichoke flavored ice cream. The artisan fair also included its own fair share of artichoke-themed merchandise.
At the festival, there were artichoke dishes prepared in every way possible along with cooking demonstrations from six local chefs to teach guests how to prepare them at home. The farmer's market was another big part of the event. Festival sponsor Ocean Mist, was selling cases of artichokes for $30. You could also talk to local farmers about their crops.
"Everybody that I've talked to said this is what they needed right now," said Kathryn Parish the Board President of the Artichoke Festival. "They needed to come out and just have someplace to go and have a good time."
Parish has been a board member for over 20 years. She's been a part of the many changes the festival has endured including their move from the Artichoke Center of the World to Monterey County Fairground. In 2016, the Festival was expecting over 30,000 attendees and the Director at the time told KION they were moving to be able to provide more space and entertainment for guests.
Parish told KION it was a financial choice to provide more for the community. "I think the last year we spent there was like over $300,000. When we came here the first year, I think it was like $38,000. I mean, that's an enormous saving," Parish said. "And because we're a nonprofit, it's our fiduciary duty to spend our money in a smart way and give it back to the community."
Many people might not know, but the Artichoke Festival is actually a non-profit that raised funds for the community. They've donated to local School Sports & Education Programs, Parks and Recreations, Seniors. In 2019, donations went to 15 different organizations in Monterey County.
Almost 100% of all commercially grown artichokes come from California and 75% come from Monterey County.