From the current issue of Sierra FoodWine Art magazine:
WHEN ORGANIZERS IN NEWCASTLE — nestled in the foothills near Auburn — held their first Mountain Mandarin Festival 26 years ago, they never imagined that it would grow to a three-day event that now attracts up to 35,000 people from throughout the West.
Visitors to the Mountain Mandarin Festival — held on the weekend of November 22-24 — are greeted with an abundance of the tasty citrus, ranging from fresh fruit samples offered by local growers to food products featuring Mandarins.
The Festival takes place under the autumn-leaved trees of the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn, where the gold, rust and burgundy colors of fall are punctuated with the bright orange globes of Mountain Mandarins everywhere you turn.
Thousands of filled orange mesh bags await, and jams, jellies, infused olive oils, balsamic vinegars, barbeque sauces and body care products all are available for purchase.
Visitors are delighted to discover that the food vendors menus include Mandarin pizza to Mandarin
glazed chicken wings, Mandarin donuts and Mandarin pulled pork, just to name a few.
The annual event includes a cooking stage with chef demonstrations and a popular recipe contest. Over 200 vendors on the grounds and in five buildings offer Mandarin products, gifts, holiday items, home décor, jewelry and handicrafts.
The atmosphere is lively with music, magic, street entertainers, dance, children’s activities and a free train ride around the grounds.
The Run for the Mandarins 5K Fun Run kicks off from the Festival on Sunday morning. But for most, meeting all the local growers and tasting their fresh Mandarins is the highlight of one of the foothill’s marquee events.
Proceeds benefit the Newcastle Area Business Association and other community projects. The Festival has raised more than $550,000 for the community, including funds for several scholarships each year
through the Association.
— Karen Spencer
Mandarins have been grown in the foothills surrounding Newcastle since the late 1800s. The first commercial Mandarin endeavors were started in the 1950s by Frank Aguilar, Ed Pilz and Harold Struble, and there are now over 75 growers in Placer County. For more information visit MandarinFestival.com.
(Photo: Wayde Carroll)