Festivals, feasts and fairs in California

Special to The Times


Lighting the tree and opening doors

Downtown San Luis Obispo will resemble a holiday wonderland for much of December, beginning with a tree lighting and Holiday Open House 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 3 in Mission Plaza. On Dec. 5, the lighted holiday parade will roll down Higuera Street. The Christmas in the Plaza arts and crafts fair follows from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 6 and 7. Santa’s House and carousel will remain in Mission Plaza through Dec. 24, and the CraftArt Market will be open through Dec. 31 at the Art Center. Admission is free.

For information contact the San Luis Obispo County Visitors & Conference Bureau; (800) 634-1414,




Tamale heaven in Old Town

Tamales are a holiday tradition in many households, and the 12th International Tamale Festival, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 6 and 7, has become a tasty mainstay in Indio’s Old Town each December.


About 80 mostly noncommercial vendors will dish out tamales of every stripe, along with other food. There will also be crafts, rides, entertainment and a 10 a.m. parade. Dec. 6. Free.

Contact Indio International Tamale Festival; (760) 342-6532,



Bluegrass on the Colorado River

For 17 years each January, this community on the Colorado River has come alive to down-home sounds at Blythe Bluegrass Music Festival, starting 8:30 a.m. Jan. 16 to 18.

When you’re at the Colorado River Fairgrounds, check out the traditional (vendors selling bluegrass merchandise) and the unconventional (Pete’s Husband Calling Contest).

Admission is $36 for three days or $12 a day; early registration discounts are available through Dec. 31.


Contact the Blythe Area Chamber of Commerce; (760) 922-8166,



Get your fill of crab and wine

About the time Mendocino County was founded in the 1850s, fishermen braved the rugged coast to fish, and Italian immigrants planted the fertile hillsides. To honor those resourceful pioneers, the county’s coastal communities will celebrate the fifth Crab and Wine Days, Jan. 23 to Feb. 1, with talks, demonstrations, crab feeds, wine tastings, cook-offs and cruises.

Contact the Mendocino County Alliance; (866) 466-3636,




Art and wine festival returns

The Cambria Art & Wine Festival was such a hit in its debut last year that the townsfolk will do it again Jan. 30 and 31. The kickoff party at Veterans Hall will include food and wine pairings, jazz music, shopping deals and a preview of the art show for $35 (includes admission both days). The art show, gourmet foods and artist demonstrations will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 31 ($15).

Contact the Cambria Chamber of Commerce; (805) 927-3624,



Rodeo, carnival and line dancing

The 49th annual Whiskey Flat Days, Feb. 13-16, takes advantage of the President’s Day weekend with a four-day celebration of the gold miners, cattle ranchers and trappers who settled the high desert.

New in 2004 will be a rodeo for kids 12 and younger. Repeat highlights will include frog-jumping contests, gunfighters, a parade, pro rodeo, carnival rides and line dancing. Admission is free but the rodeo costs $8 to $10.

Contact Kernville Chamber of Commerce; (760) 376-2629,



Almond blossoms, pasta and a queen

The free 42nd annual Almond Blossom Festival will pack events into the last weekend of February.

The festival, Feb. 26 to 29, will include a parade at 10 a.m. Feb. 28, an almond baking contest, carnival rides and 150 food and craft booths. New attractions will include a food-tasting area and Diaper Derby. A queen coronation and spaghetti dinner Feb. 26 will kick off the year’s biggest event in this town near Stockton.

Contact the Ripon Chamber of Commerce; (209) 599-7519,

-- Laurie Schenden

Events Planner appears quarterly. Laurie Schenden’s e-mail address is LKschenden@