The Santa Clara Art and Wine Festival is back after its two-year hiatus caused by COVID-19, and for the 20,000 people who came on September 17 and 18, it was one big welcome back party. Not even the downpour and stoppage of showers on Sunday could dampen the mood.
“It brings us [City staff] I’m glad everyone came out to the park and enjoyed the day,” Parks & Rec Manager Kim Castro said.
There was plenty of fun entertainment, plenty of tasty treats — including an offering of fruit, olives and cheese from the Twin Cities that complemented the wine tasting — and, of course, extensive beer and wine offerings from national and local brewers and vintners.
But the biggest draw was the wide range of interesting vendors. Only handmade crafts and works of art are allowed, and the city strives for originality and variety in its offerings.
Tony Zhao was there with his architectural, 3-D pop-up maps, all of which were made by his family in San Mateo. Zhou explained that he learned the art from his father, who made templates for Chinese New Year decorations and opened his family business, Holiday Pop Cards, in 2015. Business has been good, Zhao reported, and he plans to return next year .
At Linda’s Obsession, Linda Fussell agreed that business has been good this year.
“A lot of people are starving to get back to some sort of normalcy,” Fussell said.
Fussell’s trademark jewel-like spiders and hermit crabs.
“That’s what happens when crochet goes bad,” she laughed, “so now I’m doing wire and beads.”
At Wildflower Apothecary, Santa Clara resident Denise Stovall offered her decorative mini-gardens and arrangements of dried flowers from pumpkins and gourds. The plants grow in moss that is stuck to the pumpkin that will last for months. When the pumpkin softens, the plants can be potted.
Shopping wasn’t the only entertainment available. The live music got many people dancing, like Santa Clara residents Erica Rosero and her husband Charlie Davis, who tripped over the fantastic light in the pavilion.
“Every year we come to the Art and Wine Festival,” Rosero said. “I’m glad to be back again after COVID.”
40 years of sunshine (mostly) and good times
This year’s Santa Clara Arts and Wine Festival was not only the first post-COVID festival, but also the 40th anniversary of the event, which has its roots in the city’s now-gone festival days.
“It’s that time of year again,” reported the Santa Clara Sun in its September 23, 1981 edition. October 4.’
Also in 1981, a football game billed as the “Santa Clara Super Bowl IV” was featured between the Deputy Dawgs of the Santa Clara County Sheriffs and the Police Pigs of the Santa Clara Police Department.
In 1982, the art fair grew from an ancillary part of the festival days and a mere prelude to the parade.
“For the first time this year, Festival Days activities will extend into Santa Clara’s Central Park with a wine and art fair,” reported the Santa Clara Sun in its September 29, 1982 edition. “Wine from Kirigin Cellars, Gugliemo Family Winery, Novitiate Winery and Mirassou will be sold together with commemorative Festival Days glasses.”
The festival was given a revised birthdate in 1983 when the event was billed by the Sun as the “3rd Annual Art and Wine Festival”. This year’s event includes a book signing by author Peter Beagle (The Last Unicorn) performances by the band Sexy Senior Uke and a petting zoo with a camel.
By 1984, the tradition of the festival was well established.
“Visitors to the fourth annual Santa Clara Arts and Wine Festival will enjoy music from jazz musicians and light rock bands as they stroll the lake and Central Park pavilions to taste wines and view exhibits by more than 150 artists ” wrote the Santa Clara Sun in its September 26, 1984 edition.
However, not every festival is successful.
“Rain cuts turnout at wine and art festival,” Santa Clara Valley Weekly wrote in September 1989, when attendance was estimated to be down 50%—legendary Santa Claran Cleo Stuckrath accounted for the excess food in her column, “Cleo’s Corner’. (Given Cleo’s amazing community activities, no doubt she made sure everything found a useful home.)
Fortunately, there was little rain for the ever-popular event. Although Sunday’s rains slowed attendance this year, many vendors reported selling more in one day than they typically do at two-day festivals, according to Parks & Rec manager Castro.
A hardworking team makes it possible
Much of the Parks and Recreation Department is involved in making the festival the success it is.
“They worked for 10 months on logistics and operations, and 80 staff members worked on the event itself,” Castro said.
But the hard-working team at the Parks and Recreation Department isn’t resting on its laurels. In a few weeks they will start work on the 2023 festival.