‘That feeling of community spirit’
Yellow ponchos – on.
Hair nets – secured.
Lemon meringue pies – set.
Behind each pie stood a contestant, 12 years or younger, ready to become a champion. With only 45-seconds and no limbs allowed, the kids anxiously awaited their signal to begin.
“Three, two, one…” Eyes on their pie, contestants scarfed down as much as they could manage. Coming up for air, their whipped cream-coated faces bobbed up and down until one competitor came out victorious.
This weekend, the Goleta Lemon Festival celebrated its 28th year with everything from pie-eating contests and pinup pageants to bouncy houses and lemon-flavored beer. Located at Girsh Park, the festival featured something for everyone with more than 70 booths and vendors.
Children clutched small paper planes while their parents sipped lemonade, and bubbles floated in the air as local businesses promoted their merchandise. Some adults even tried their hand, or rather their mouths, at the pie-eating contest.
“There’s a very intense strategy about pie-eating,” joked Forest Patton, winner of this year’s pie-eating contest for those older than 12. “Who wins and who doesn’t win is based on how the pie tin looks, so I made sure to make a big deep hole and soak up as much into my beard as I could.”
While Mr. Patton took home first place, he competed to avenge his son, Jackson, who missed pie prestige by just a second in the kids’ contest. “It was carpe pie-em that I won,” said Mr. Patton.
Mr. Patton and his son are just one example of how the festival brought people together. Organized by the Goleta Chamber of Commerce, the festival is a fundraiser for the Chamber itself and about 40 other nonprofit organizations.
“We all participate,” said Kirsten Miller, president and CEO of the Goleta Chamber of Commerce. “For most of the places you see here it’s their biggest fundraiser of the year.”
The Lemon Festival has been a celebration of Goleta from the start. Beginning as Goleta Valley History Days, the festival has grown over the past 28 years into Goleta’s biggest event.
“[When they come], I hope people get that feeling of community spirit,” said Ms. Miller. “When you see your friends and neighbors, and you get to be proud of the place you live.”
For Ms. Miller, this community has been a part of her family before it even began. “People here remember when I was carrying a lemon of my own,” laughed Ms. Miller, gesturing to her stomach. “My favorite thing to do here is watching my kids grow up with this festival.”
Tony Vallejo, chairperson of this year’s festival, emphasized this sense of community. “Everyone loves lemon,” said Mr. Vallejo. “You can tell it’s a great family event. We serve beer, but really the kids are the ones that are here and playing and listening to music.”
At the “Kid-Zone,” bouncy houses, rock climbing, mini golf, bungee jumping, and giant hamster balls were enough to keep kids entertained all day, complete with a small choo-choo train taking tours around the park.
“My granddaughter has driven the little tractors, she’s done the jumpers, and now she’s getting her face painted,” said Barbara Bartolome, longtime resident of Goleta. “It’s just been so amazing. We’re having fun walking around watching her enjoy everything.”
Likewise, Julie DeCarlo’s son couldn’t get enough of the festival. “He’s only two-and-a-half but there’s so much for him to do,” said Ms. DeCarlo. “We came last year by mistake and now we’re back because he loved it so much.”
That is not to say the adults didn’t have their fun. At the Goleta Lemon Pinup Pageant, 13 ladies competed to become the next Miss Lemon Goleta Festival. Contestants included Sassy Sweets, Pinky Swear, and Pinup Marie, to name a few, each coming out in vintage attire as vibrant as their names.
Reigning winner, DeeDee Cupcake, came all the way up from Los Angeles to compete in last year’s competition. “It was a wonderful way for me to discover a new part of California I had never been to, and I made a lot of new friends as well,” said Ms. Cupcake, who is back to host the pageant. “I just love all things pinup and vintage.”
While Ms. Cupcake has competed in pinup competitions before, this was her first pageant that gave back to the community.
“I had never done a fundraising pageant before, so I like that aspect of it, that we’re giving back” said Ms. Cupcake. All proceeds from the pageant went towards the Unity Shoppe, a nonprofit in Santa Barbara where families in need can go to get food, clothing, and other products.
From supporting local nonprofits to just providing some family-fun, the Lemon Festival celebrated community around every corner.
“It makes me feel like I’m at home,” said Alexandra Perez, a second- year student at UCSB. “It’s nice seeing the community come together like this. Everyone’s just so happy and cheerful.”
The festival will continue today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the park, at 7050 Phelps Road in Goleta.