"Side Trip to Castroville's Artichoke Festival" Top 5 Page for this destination Monterey Local Custom Tip by Ewingjr98

Monterey Local Customs: 36 reviews and 143 photos

Castroville Artichoke Festival is held annually in May. The 2008 edition is the 49th consecutive event. The festival includes artichoke foods, souvenirs, cooking demonstrations, a 10K Run, a variety of art & crafts, antique cars, tours of the artichoke fields, wine tastings, art contests, live music and much more. Norma Jean Baker (Marilyn Monroe) was crowned as Castroville's first Artichoke Queen in 1948. Annual attendance is around 20,000 over the two-day weekend.

We had a blast at the 2008 festival. We parked in one of the residential areas near the festival grounds, and paid out $8 per person on the way in. We started by walking through the antique cars, then we saw the crafts and other odds and ends for sale. Next we checked out a few of the stages that had some great music playing, then we grabbed our first of three meals; we had a great artichoke and ground beef burrito for $6. After completing the big loop around the festival, we entered the community center to look at the vegetable art, then we bought 10 tickets for the wine tastings that featured maybe 15 local wineries. About halfway through the wine tour we decided more food would be beneficial, so we headed back out to the main festival area and had a fish taco and a carne asada taco, both with plenty of tasty artichokes on top (only $3 each). Then we were back in to complete our wine tasting and we were glad to catch the artichoke eating competition which was surprisingly won by a guy from Ohio. Finally we headed back outside for our third meal (!) where we had another of the great carne asada tacos, a grilled half artichoke, and a Sparky's Rootbeer float from the Knox Brewing Company in Pacific Grove. Finally, after about five hours, three meals, ten glasses of wine, and getting run into by about 35 strollers, we decided to call it a successful day at the Artichoke Festival.

While the Artichoke Festival attendance pales in comparison to the 120,000-some people who take part in the three-day Garlic Festival in Gilroy, we enjoyed the Artichoke Festival more. It is more compact, while the Garlic Festival just seemed too large and crowded. The garlic festival certainly has better food, but we liked the small-town feel of the artichoke festival.

Sat. 10am-6pm, Sun. 9am-5pm

Castroville was founded in 1863 by Juan Bautista Castro, and is the second oldest town in Monterey County after Monterey. In the 1920s artichoke cultivation began in Castroville and today the town produces some 75 percent of the entire United States consumption of this unique product. The town also produces a few other vegetables including strawberries and lettuce. Today the population is about 6,000 people, and the compact town has numerous small restaurants, shops, and churches, many with a Mexican flavor, not surprising since some 85 percent of the town's people claim Hispanic roots. One of the towns few historic landmarks is the old school house on the main street, now an Italian restaurant.

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  • Written May 17, 2008
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