The 30th San Joaquin County Asparagus festival ended today. It was the first time the three-day-event was at the San Joaquin County fairgrounds, and attendance surpassed all expectations.
“We said 50,000 would be a home run for us for the three days. And we almost hit 50,000 just yesterday,” the CEO of the San Joaquin County fairgrounds, Kelly Olds said. “We are probably going to hit more than 100,000.”
Months after prior organizers announced they would no longer host the annual event, citing rising costs and declining attendance, local business owners, Carol and Tony Noceti stepped in to promote the event.
“It was either now, or we lose it,” Carol Noceti said. “We had no choice. It was going away, so my husband and I felt that we could help here.”
Many attendees said they appreciated the space, the more affordable prices, and sit down venue.
As always, the star of the show was the deep fried asparagus. Thousands of people waited patiently in line at “Asparagus Alley,” for the famous dish.
Volunteer cooks fried more than 10 tons of Lodi grown asparagus. Head chef Reggie Mitchell explained the reason for its popularity.
“It appeals to three flavors on your palate, the sweetness of the asparagus, the saltiness in the mix, and the savoriness of the batter,” Mitchell said.
However, many patrons said the buying process of all the goodies was not always the easiest. With only two ATMs on the entire grounds, there were some reports of machines actually running out of cash. This year’s new organizers took note.
“We need more ATM and trashcans,” Olds said. “We've had some hiccups, but we're going to have to spend some time debriefing and getting started on the planning for next year.”
Organizers said they plan to host the festival at the fairgrounds again next year.
Final attendance numbers and funds raised will be announced in two weeks.