Morro Bay’s sixth annual Avocado and Margarita Festival celebrates agriculture in the area, CEO of the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce Craig Schmidt said. He’s heard from more than one planter that the avocados grown here are the best on the planet, he said.
“What better way to celebrate a big bowl of guacamole or avocado than with a margarita?” Schmidt said.
This year, the festival celebrates for two days instead of one. Last year, 3,100 people attended the festival, a smaller number than in past years, coordinator Nancy McKarney said. However, she said she expects to see more people at the festival this year because of the added day.
The event includes live music, contests and food. The festival added a large family area with activities for kids and tequila tasting at Rose’s Landings this year, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 15 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Saturday’s live entertainment includes The Shival Experience, Bobby Santa Cruz and The Mystics, Shameless and Joey V’s Bringing It Back Band. Sunday, the Lenny Blue Band plays.
Age groups for the contests range from elementary to adult. Adult contests include the Best or Most Unusual Avocado Recipe, while The Best Fiesta Costume Contest (any age) and Fanciest Sombrero Contest (any age) will have on-stage parades and be judged by the event participants. Participants can sign up for the contests online.
The Avocado and Margarita Festival is the chamber’s largest fundraiser of the year, Schmidt said. The chamber hopes to net anywhere from $25,000 to $30,000.
The entrance fee for the event is one dollar; however, the fee only applies where alcohol will be served, Schmidt said. The family area will be free.
Last year, a portion of the admission fee went to scholarships for underprivileged children to participate in summer sports programs, Schmidt said. This year, the proceeds will go to the San Luis Obispo Food Bank Coalition.
Schmidt said the Chamber hopes to raise enough money to provide six tons of food to the food bank. Every dollar equals about 10 pounds of food, he said.
Volunteer coordinator Megan Chicoine said this is the first year SLO Food Bank is participating in the event. Because of this, the SLO food bank doesn’t have a set monetary goal in mind, she said.
“We’re grateful for whatever we can get,” Chicoine said.
SLO Food Bank feeds approximately 44,000 people in the county every year, Chicoine said. Despite common stereotypes, Chicoine said SLO Food Bank does not supply food exclusively to the homeless community — some are working families who can’t make enough to feed their family.
“About one in six people are food insecure,” she said.
Guests can purchase “event bucks” at one dollar each to purchase food and drinks. All alcohol must be purchased using event bucks. Specific food booths, like the Morro Bay High School cheerleaders’ guacamole booth, only take event bucks as well. Some food booths at the event will accept regular cash.
Event bucks raise money for the Chamber of Commerce, McKarney said.
Community members and students can register online to volunteer at the event. Volunteers help with traffic control, looking for problems and assisting in booths selling event items, McKarney said. Most volunteers sell tickets and pick up trash, she said. All volunteers must be able-bodied and 18 years or older, she said.
Schmidt said he’s willing to pay a Cal Poly organization $250 to help clean up at the event. He said the job requires taking down fences, tents and loading equipment. The job lasts about three hours, he said.
Cal Poly students have helped out at the festival in the past. Students in the Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration Management class developed a strategic plan for the festival as a class project, Schmidt said. Schmidt said the festival implemented a lot of the students’ recommendations, which helped improve the event.
“It was a really good business partnership,” Schmidt said. “I’d like to encourage that in the future.”
Department head Bill Hendricks said the project is a very hands-on project, because the students are actually working with an organization. They create a mission statement, a vision and recommendations, he said. That quarter, there were nine presentations in front of the class and industry professionals. At the end, students voted for the best presentation and the avocado festival group won.
“We were very pleased with the product,” Hendricks said.
The festival will take place Saturday, Sept. 15 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 16 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event will be held at 714 Embarcadero in Morro Bay.