Food & Drink

Five things to know before you go to Saturday’s free Farm-to-Fork Festival

Farm-to-Fork Festival draws crowds to Capitol Mall

Crowds quickly filled up on six blocks of the mall to enjoy a variety of food, beer and wine and watch cooking demonstrations and live music.
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Crowds quickly filled up on six blocks of the mall to enjoy a variety of food, beer and wine and watch cooking demonstrations and live music.

It’s a half-mile of California-grown celebration. Stretching from Third to Eighth streets on Capitol Mall, Sacramento’s fifth annual Farm-to-Fork Festival is expected to draw more than 60,000 patrons Saturday.

According to organizer Visit Sacramento, the festival has become the “region’s biggest fresh food party.” To festivalgoers, it’s free family fun that tastes good, too.

Focusing on food, wine and beer, the festival illustrates the diversity and source of hundreds of crops and packaged goods. It’s a one-stop course in what California farmers and ranchers produce. In addition, many local restaurants and food-related businesses show off the bounty, offering free samples or food for sale as well as demonstrating their crafts at four stages. Brewers and winemakers sell tastings and full servings at outdoor venues. Bands provide a live soundtrack throughout the afternoon.

To get the most out of the festival, here are five things you need to know:

1. Where to park?

For early arrivals, there will be some street parking around the festival, but you’ve also got to navigate closed streets in the festival zone along Capitol Mall.

“Visit Sacramento is planning for large crowds again this year,” said Kari Miskit of Visit Sacramento. “Attendees are encouraged to use the city of Sacramento’s parking app or to consider public transportation. Rapid Transit will still be running, including across Seventh and Eighth streets. Free bike valet will also be available again this year.”

That free bike parking can be found between Seventh to Eighth streets on Capitol Mall.

2. What’s new?

More music.

“This year, we have a mix of bands – both local and from other parts of the country – who will play through the day, with the band Blind Pilot headlining at the day’s end,” Miskit said. “We’re even hearing from visitors from the Bay Area and Southern California, who are coming to the festival specifically with the bands in mind.”

Also expect more cooking demonstrations. Festival first-timers author Michelle Tam (“Nom Nom Paleo”) and Patricio Wise from Roseville’s Nixtaco both will be on hand to share their expertise.

In addition, the kids’ zone has expanded with its own young cook demonstration stage. New this year: The festival’s first cornhole tournament.

3. How many vendors?

Expect about 125 of them, a few more than last year. That list includes 20 breweries and a dozen wineries. “We’re working to keep the vendor-count level (manageable),” Miskit said, “so that people can continue to easily explore the festival throughout the day.”

4. Other highlights?

“The cooking demonstrations are always highlights,” Miskit said. “Taylor’s Market will be bringing back its chef butchering competition, which is always entertaining.

“The festival is really about exploration,” she added. “The vendors go all out to create immersive experiences for the community. We’ll have everything from a ‘fish petting zoo’ of sorts with Pacific Seafood to an amazing farmers market from Raley’s. The festival really provides people with the chance to meet the faces behind farm-to-fork and discover the ways in which farm-to-fork plays a role in our daily lives – even in ways we may not have been previously aware of.”

5. What about free stuff?

Many vendors offer free food and drink samples (but not free wine or beer).

“That’s always something to keep an eye out for,” Miskit said. “Other vendors will be giving out great usable items like sunscreen or farmers market shopping bags.”

Mike Testa, CEO of Visit Sacramento, says the organization leaves the menu up to the chefs for the annual Tower Bridge Dinner, a sold-out Farm-to-Fork celebration that runs $199 per ticket. The menu was unveiled at a preview at Golden 1 Center on

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington

Farm-to-Fork Festival

When: 11 a.m.-6:30 Saturday, Sept. 23

Where: Capitol Mall, between Fourth and Seventh streets, Sacramento

Cost: Free

Information: www.farmtofork.com

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