Fiestagoers ate, drank, danced and celebrated Patterson’s famous fruit, with many folks sticking around for the fireworks display Saturday evening that drew even more oohs and ahhhs than usual.
“Of all the years that I’ve worked for this organization, I think I can safely say this is the best group of fireworks that I’ve seen,” said Marilyn Hoobler, who has served as the Apricot Fiesta's secretary since 1984.
Hoobler said this year’s event went smoothly overall, estimating that the fiesta drew 20,000 to 30,000 attendees, even as temperatures rose to 97 degrees on both Saturday and Sunday.
“During the peak heat of the afternoon, people said, ‘OK, I’m tired. I’ll cool off and come back later (in the day),’” Hoobler said. “That happened both days.”
Though most attendees were from Patterson, Hoobler noted that she received phone calls prior to the event from folks who lived in Stockton, Sacramento and the Bay Area.
Food vendors satisfied
In addition to the draw of meeting up with old friends, food was a big enticement at this year’s event.
Deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches sold at Castro’s Bar-B-Que Shack were among the more unique additions to this year’s culinary lineup.
Owner Vangie Castro, who also serves up Filipino fare, said the sandwiches were a big hit, noting that she came up with the concoction in a dream one night.
“If you think about it, you’ll think, ‘Oh, it’s greasy,’ but it’s really not,” said Castro, a Manteca resident. “It melts in your mouth.”
For the more adventurous, Southern California resident Bryan Mounts manned a booth that sold alligator along with calamari and crabcakes. The farm-raised gators are shipped to California from Louisiana, Mounts explained, saying that many people say they love the taste when they try it.
Patterson resident Nicole Rezentes, one of many attendees who beat the heat by enjoying a smoothie from Fruit Fritz, said her husband was among the fans of the alligator meat. He described it as a cross between crab meat and lobster.
Apricots were the star of the show over the weekend, and apricot ice cream served by local Boy Scouts drew massive lines as always with many people praising the flavor and the refreshing chill amidst the summery weather.
Fiesta attendee Nancy Carrazco was among the fans.
“I like it very much,” she said, while munching on a single-scoop cone. “It’s delightful.”
Patterson-based SunBlest Orchards and Westley-based Allard Farms kept busy selling apricots during the event. SunBlest offered varied products featuring the stone fruit, including jellies, salsa and barbecue sauce.
Michael Bogdanich, whose family runs SunBlest, said apricot pies were a particularly big hit, though many people would wait to buy them until the end of the day, so they would not have to lug them around the fiesta grounds.
Craft sales mixed
Attendees had a wide array of craft booths to peruse this year, ranging from Egyptian jewelry to “redneck wind chimes” made of beer cans.
Stewart & Jasper offered samples of apricot balsamic vinegar, a new product now being offered at Stewart & Jasper’s gift shop at Renzo Lane and Rogers Road.
“I’m so excited to present this at the fiesta,” employee Cyndi Carr said of the vinegar, noting that Stewart & Jasper received lots of customers throughout the fiesta.
By contrast, foot traffic was somewhat low at the booth next door run by Apricot Veterinary Clinic, receptionist Michelle McLaughlin said late Sunday afternoon, though she said more people had stopped by earlier in the day. The booth offered free goodies for attendees such as flea prevention shampoos and dog treats.
One particularly unique booth manned by Clovis author Morris Garcia displayed Garcia’s 1942 Ford tractor and a children’s book that paid homage to it titled “Henry the Brave Little Tractor.” The story, a mixture of fact and fiction, tells of Henry’s journey throughout the world, including a stint serving in World War II and a period of hauling apricots in Patterson, where Garcia’s real-life brother Don Garcia lives.
Parents who bought the book were allowed to place their children on top of the Ford tractor, eliciting grins from many local tykes.
Hoobler said some vendors did better than others, but all of them said they were treated well by fiesta committee members, who supplied them with goodie bags.
Music ranging from blues to funk to country tunes kept many attendees’ toes tapping.
A few performers such as Los Luceros de Osborn folk dancers from the Turlock-based Dual Immersion Academy took to the streets of Plaza Circle with their performances.
Meanwhile, the Teen Zone was packed with youth throughout the weekend on such attractions as the Euro Bungee, which catapulted folks in the air as their arms were attached to two bungee cords, and Bubble Fun, in which children could run inside plastic bubbles underwater.
Likewise, many youngsters kept the carnival area busy, where they had a chance this year to shoot paintballs at stuffed animals at a new attraction run by Turlock-based paintball team Sealed Fate and Dragon Sports Paintball & Martial Arts.
The historical museum in the downtown Center Building was packed with patrons throughout the event, many of whom had been there for the first time. Museum curator Ron Swift said he was impressed with the turnout, noting that more than 1,000 people had entered the museum as of Sunday afternoon, up from 505 during the 2012 fiesta.
Fireworks draw applause
When the sun touched down on Saturday, many residents flocked to Patterson High School, the Patterson Skate Park and other locations near Ward and Las Palmas avenues where they could get a nice glimpse of the annual fireworks display.
Most indicated they were not disappointed.
“I think it was the best one they ever had,” Patterson resident Rick Reyburn said Sunday after watching the fireworks display at the Patterson Skate Park the previous evening.
His wife, Susan Reyburn, said the display prompted her to plan to send another check to the nonprofit Apricot Fiesta to support next year’s fireworks show.
“Patterson rules,” she proclaimed.
Zambelli Fireworks served up a few surprises during the evening, including a mirror effect created by shooting off sets of identical fireworks within milliseconds of each other and a double finale to wrap up the show.
After residents applauded for the initial “finale” — a flurry of multicolored fireworks that filled the night sky — the real epilogue began, a rapid-fire assault of the senses that included flashes of light dotting the sky along with a slew of traditional mortars.
“It just kept going and going,” said Patterson High School teacher and coach Cade Tomasegovich, who watched the display from near his southern Patterson home.
Fiesta fireworks chairman John Stobb said he could hear the crowds cheering from both the skate park and the high school from here he was standing along Ward Avenue.
He gave credit to Zambelli and to Michael Wilson, the operator of this year’s fireworks show.
“That guy was awesome!” he said.
Calm atmosphere pervades event
In contrast to the response to the pyrotechnics show, the overall tenor of the fiesta itself was calm this year — exactly the way authorities liked it.
Patterson Police Sgt. John Walker, who was in charge of security for the event, classified crime incidents during and after the fiesta hours as minor throughout the weekend.
Overall, there were nine arrests — one for domestic violence, one for a burglary warrant, one for drunk driving, one for starting a fight and public drunkenness and three for being drunk in public throughout the weekend.
Five citations were written Friday for minors being in possession of alcohol, and one adult was cited for providing alcohol to minors, he said.
In addition, police responded to a report that someone was charging for parking next to the California Northern railroad tracks across the street from the fiesta on property owned by the railroad. When police arrived, the scammer apparently had left.
Fiesta representatives contacted police as soon as they learned about the incident, Hoobler said.
“The hard thing about that is that people will think that it’s the Apricot Fiesta but it’s not,” she said
A couple of children were also temporarily separated from their parents during the event, but eventually they were reunited, Walker said.
“Overall the fiesta went great,” Walker said. “Anytime you have that many people at one event where there is alcohol involved you’re going to have a few incidents.”
Hoobler was happy with the calm atmosphere and pleased with the fiesta as a whole, saying she was thankful to the fiesta volunteers, the sponsors and everyone else who had a hand in hosting the event.
“Overall, it seemed to go really well,” she said.
• Irrigator reporter Nick Rappley contributed to this report.
Contact Jonathan Partridge at 892-6187, ext. 26 or email@example.com