Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Asparagus Festival

Stockton, CA, Saturday, April 24, 2010: This year, I'm trying to make it to as many of the different festivals that are listed on the California Festivals Page as I can. Some of these festivals are closer to Los Angeles than I care to drive, but there are plenty nearby. Last weekend, Stockton hosted its annual Asparagus Festival.

Stockton is on the Sacramento river and its port marks the furthest point up the river where ocean going vessels can navigate before the river narrows. There's quite a boating culture along the Sacramento river delta that we've heard about but never taken the time to find out more. The drive up was an easy hour of freeway: a miserable bumper-to-bumper journey on a weekday aftertoon, but a pleasant drive past all of those wind turbines in the Altamont Pass on a Saturday afternoon. 

I left a little late, after a busy day taking care of personal business and arrived at 5:00. The festival was closing at 7:00 and I figured that I could do just about everything I'd want to in that time. Parking was remarkably easy in a garage near the port and there was no traffic jam in or out of the city.

I was hoping to see someone in an asparagus costume, and there he was. Despite the good health that adding asparagus to your diet can bring, there were many types of fast food offered that would make your heart stop: literally.

There was also healthy food: Mango on a stick, for example. Honest name, but not too exciting. Maybe they should call it a Mango Refresher. Maybe you have a better suggestion. 

I didn't try any alcohol (long drive home), but now, I regret not tasting the Aspara-Rita. 

I had to look up Lumpia. Lumpia is like an egg roll but it is most popular in the Philippines. I think I'd rather try that in a restaurant where I can also have a salad. I also saw folks eating deep fried asparagus. That didn't appeal to me either.

Full disclosure: I did have a bar-be-qued beef sausage on a bun with sauerkraut before I left. I know, I know, I know, but I love the taste of those!

Some enterprising outfit organized this golf challenge. I'm not sure what someone would do with 100,000 holes in one (that's the literal meaning of the the sign without the $ sign in front of the 100,000.)

Aladdin Bail Bonds was there. Maybe if you were planning to be naughty, you could put down a deposit. Marshmallow shooters sound like something a New Orleans bar would offer. But they are toy guns that shoot marshmallows. I feel so out of touch: I'd never heard of these before. Santa, are you reading this? I got the gun image from

Some enjoyed being directly in the sun, and it wasn't that hot, 82oF (28oC), but others brought their own shade.

I'm not sure about that Radio Station's call letters. Isn't KJOY short for Kill Joy? That's the first thing I thought of. I once heard a story on the radio about all the trouble a radio station owner went through in the 1960s to buy the letters KHIP. It was owned by a ship at the time. Nowadays, the call letters don't seem to be as important as the radio's persona. For example, do you remember the call letters for Jack FM in Vancouver or Dallas?

Main stage: Blue Oyster Cult. The festival fee was $12, but no extra fee to see the band. Good deal. They were world famous in the early 1980s with hits like "Don't Fear the Reaper," "Godzilla," and "I'm Burning for You." Those songs are still played frequently on classic rock radio stations. More Cowbell! 

I never thought I'd get so close to get these photos. Also, I'm loving the 500mm lens on my new camera. The middle and right photos are at full zoom and not cropped. The bass player, in the right photo, was especially fun to watch. These guys played well without taking themselves too seriously.

The seating was offered on bales of hay. I think those were the reserved bales in the middle and festival seating on the left. ;-)

Interesting Mohawk hairstyle in the middle photo, and we're so far away from the Mohawk nation's home turf (Ontario/New York/Ohio). He was with his family. If I had been in small town Canada, I would have assumed he was from a First Nation.

That T-shirt on the right makes no sense unless you Google it. It is the name of an obscure hard rock band's record from 20 years ago.

The Patriots Jet Air Team performed.

Directly following the Blue Oyster Cult concert, look to the sky for the amazing Patriots Jet Team flyover to commemorate the 25th Annual Festival. This is the only civilian jet formation aerobatic team in North America. Planned are four (4) passes over the festival. So look up for the red, white, and blue smoke trailing the jets. A thrilling finale to an already impressive Saturday!

The M & M's NASCAR racer was there, which is driven by Kyle Busch, to promote Infineon Raceway in Sonoma County. As you can see, there was no steering wheel. And there I was without my vice grip pliers. ;-) "Yes, officer, I'm steering the car with regulation vice grips!" "Tell it to the judge!" the officer would say as he or she took me away.

We don't have TV service at home (we do have a TV for DVD's and Wii, but no television service), so I don't know what "Sons of Anarchy" is all about, but the T-Shirt provided many families with a "please, Mom" moment, I'm sure. "Sorry dear, Mommy is going to spend the money on a fitted toe ring instead."

"Aw, mom!"

Finally, I got to the real meat, or should I say, vegetable of the festival. The demonstration asparagus patch. Would these asparagus provide the nutrition necessary to eat oneself back to life?

You can click the photos of these signs to see larger images, as you can with every photo in this blog.

A good time was had by all: but some had a better time than others.

Looking through these photos today, I realized how much fun I had. And come on: I enjoyed thinking about two childhood fantasies within the same hour, playing in a rock band and driving a race car. Can't beat that!

Copyright © 2010 David G. Kelly

Friday, April 9, 2010

Easter Sunday

San Francisco, Sunday April 4: What if you threw an Easter party and nobody showed up? That's essentially what happened in San Francisco last weekend. Some people showed up, and while those people are somebodies to somebody else, there were more people working the vendor booths than general public on the street.

It wasn't raining when I left San Jose, and only sprinkling lightly as I drove up the 101. I was hoping the rain would end and I'd see a rainbow or a bright blue sky reflected on wet pavement. Didn't get all that, but I did get some good photos.

I parked at the North Beach Garage and walked along the length of Union Street, up and down Russian Hill till I got to Gough Street where the street was closed off to traffic for the festival. 

Oh, to own a San Francisco townhouse. Some of the sidewalks, like this one at Jones and Union are so steep, a staircase has been embedded into the concrete.

Across the street, everything is downhill from this point! I love these old houses. Notice the curved window? My guidebook tells me that they stopped making them that way around the time of the 1906 earthquake: this house survived the earthquake.

Union Street looking west. Oh, oh, that party looks like it was over before it really got started. The view to the east is likely more familiar to you. That's Coit Tower in the background. The top looks like the end of a fire hose as it was a salute to the firefighters who stopped the massive fires that followed the 1906 earthquake.

The rain scared everyone away. I wonder if that was the parade going down the middle of the street.

I just love this old theater, the Alhambra, on Polk Street at Union. Now a fitness center, look at the detail that went into the facade and the minarets. Opened in 1926, it was designed by the same architect who designed the Castro theater, Timothy L. Pflueger.

Hard to imagine anyone building a theater with this attention to detail today. Reminds me of the time I saw the ruin of a crusader's castle in Israel. They built their castle to last even though they were only in the Holy Land for about 50 years. That seems funny now, but the crusaders seriously thought they were making a permanent change. 

80 years ago, who would have thought that one day, people would stop going out to movie theaters. In recent years, most of these old theaters have been torn down or left as ruins, like crusader castles. And, if you think about the time between the golden age of movie theaters (1920s) and the proliferation of televisions in people's homes by the late 1950s, that time period is just as brief as the time spent by the crusaders in their castle before the local armies drove them back to Europe.

The Alhambra has been given a fresh coat of paint and, although I've never been inside, word has it that the stage and interior woodwork has been restored as well.

Many people had gone to a lot of trouble to make this a special day for children. While others refused to accept that their day had been spoiled.

I'm not sure whether to title this photo, "Hope Springs Audaciously," or "Second Date." There was supposed to be a parade at 2:00. If it happened, it was over by the time I got there. 

Maybe they were having a pleasant conversation and didn't want to move. Then again, looking at their faces, maybe not...

A little rain didn't dampen the sprits of these cheerleaders from Cheer San Francisco. Actually, they were the highlight of my day.

No way you'd get me up there. Several from this team did tumbling routines that ended with front flips... on the wet pavement. Cheer San Francisco donates their time to raise money for local charities. Of course, I gave them a donation.

There wasn't much business for the vendors: most were packing up by the time I got there.

I like the contrast of the colorful pinwheels against the brick and concrete background.

All this rain left some folks all dressed up with nowhere to go.

Copyright © 2010 David G. Kelly