An estimated 12,000 people sipped, nibbled and dipped their way through Paso Robles Downtown City Park last Saturday during a bigger, bolder and juicer Paso Robles Olive Festival.
More than 52 olive vendors served up golden cups of oil, toothpick-skewered olive treats, tapenades and more epicurean wonders than you can shake an olive branch at.
A colorful range of vinegar purveyors, wineries and other local and out-of-town artisans rounded out the eighth annual event, hosted by the Paso Robles Downtown Main Street and We Olive.
Paso Robles Downtown Main Street Executive Director Norma Moye said festival organizers worked non-stop from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. passing out free tote bags and programs, which ran out in a flash.
Attendees also received free scoops of rich olive oil ice cream drizzled with raspberry balsamic vinegar courtesy of We Olive.
“We never stopped giving out stuff – it was unbelievable,” said Moye. “There were people from all over the state of California and beyond. We’ll need more programs next year.”
Level 4 Executive Chef Alex Martin competed against fellow Executive Chef Ryan Swarthout of Robert’s and won in a heated cook-off featuring local olive oils and ingredients. Attendees enjoyed wine and beer tasting and children had a chance to create their own olive crafts in a youth-geared area all their own. Downtown eateries featured specialty olive dishes throughout the evening.
This year marked the first year for what Moye said may become part of festival lore. Father Larry Gosselin of the nearby San Miguel Mission blessed the many festival vendors with holy water, adding a historical and spiritual element to the event.
“When olive trees first came to California, they were brought to the missions,” said Moye. “It was a sweet last minute addition and I hope it will become a tradition.”
Former Cal Poly mechanical engineering student and owner of Lucero Olive Oil, Dewey Lucero debuted a few new products including chocolate-infused vinegar and crushed Meyer lemon olive oil. Dewey said sometimes he’ll see old professors who wonder how he made the jump from mechanical engineering to creating olive oil.
“I really lucked out and I love doing this,” he said with a smile. “I love coming out for the Paso Robles Olive Festival.”
• For photos of the 2011 Olive Festival, see the community section and Friday’s issue of the Paso Robles Press.
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