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Food Shows and Festivals

Every June Food & Wine Magazine attracts many thousands of visitors to its “Food & Wine Classic” show in Aspen, Colorado. The three-day event is filled with tastings, cooking demonstrations, seminars, speakers, and a chance to meet food celebrities. The 2006 program acted almost as a litany of food celebrity; a $975 entry fee allowed the food devotee to attend such programs as “American Brasserie,” with Bobby Flay, “Cooking with Spices,” with Daniel Boulud, “Dinner Italian Style” with Giada De Laurentiis, “Spago Classics” with Wolfgang Puck. “Real Creole” with Emeril Lagasse, “Rib University” with Steve Raichlin, “Shrimp Master Class” with Ming Tsai, and many more.

The Food & Wine event may be the most glamorous food gathering for the culinary faithful, but it is only one of thousands that occur every year both within the food trade and among the general public. A good example of a major recurring show that appeals to both is the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) International Fancy Food and Confection Shows that take place in New York, San Francisco and Chicago every year. In these shows, exhibitors hawk their specialty food products (soy caviar, to give one mainstream example) to the many thousands of visitors who come to taste, buy, or even just to look. The show’s promoters claim to offer 80,000 specialty food products from over 1,000 companies.

Every state and region in the United States hosts myriad food events, fairs, festivals, competitions, and agricultural expositions. The summer is the high point, naturally, but the eating goes on all year long, with a slight dip in December for the traditional winter holiday season. In the state of California alone, a foodie could attend one of several events every month of the year. A partial list:

  • January: The Asian-American Food Expo in Pomona; the Holtville Rib Cookoff Extravaganza.
  • February: The San Francisco Crab Festival; The National Date Festival in Indio; The Los Angeles Kosher World Expo; the Santa Cruz Chowder Cookoff and Festival.
  • March: The Annual World of Pinot Noir in Shell Beach; The Annual Monterey Wine Festival.
  • April: The San Francisco Oyster and Beer Festival; The Stockton Asparagus Festival; The California Poppy Festival in Lancaster.
  • May: The Castroville Artichoke Festival; The California Strawberry Festival in Oxnard.
  • June: The Ojai Wine Festival; The “Real Men Cook” Festival in Los Angeles (with concurrent “Real Men Cook” festivals in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Miami, Minnesota, New Orleans, New York, Phoenix, Philadelphia, and Washington DC).
  • July: The California Peach Festival in Marysville; The Gilroy Garlic Festival; The Oxnard Salsa Festival.
  • August: The Los Angeles Tofu Festival (with tofu eating contest); The Tomato Festival in Fairfield; The Los Angeles Wine and Food Festival; The Joy of Sake Festival in San Francisco.
  • September: The Julian Grape Stomp Fiesta; The Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival in San Francisco; The Redondo Beach Lobster Festival; The San Jose Italian Family Festival; The Fair Oaks Oaks’toberfest.
  • October: The California Avocado Festival in Carpenteria; The Annual Safeway World Champion Pumpkin Weigh Off in Half Moon Bay; The Expo Comida Latina in Los Angeles.
  • November: The San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival; The Art of Food and Wine Festival in Palm Desert.
  • December: The Mendocino Crab and Wine Days.

As smaller state, South Carolina, holds fewer shows than California, but the offerings reflect the state’s rich culinary culture: The Distinctively Charleston Food and Wine Festival, The World Grits Festival in St. George, The Pageland Watermelon Festival, and The Annual Okra Strut Festival in Irmo.

Alaska’s Kodiak Crab Fesitval, Albuquerque New Mexico’s Fiery-Foods and Barbecue Show, Connecticut’s Mystic Seaport Lobsterfest, Maui’s Taro Festival in Hawaii, Georgia’s Vidalia Onion Festival, Louisiana’s Delcambre Shrimp Festival, Houston’s Fiesta Latina, and New York City’s Taste of Chinatown are only a few examples of the unique food events that take place throughout the year in every American city and region.