Castroville Artichoke Festival

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Artichoke & Vegetables

Castroville Artichoke Festival is a food festival held annually in Castroville, a town in Monterey County of the U.S. State of California. The city itself is called the "Artichoke Center of the World". Castroville Artichoke Festival 2009 marked the 50th anniversary of this celebration.

Since the 1920s, Castroville has produced artichokes. California artichoke industry was started here by Swiss Italians, who also grew the first wine vineyards in Salinas Valley. It is now a $50 million crop for Pajaro Valley - where Castroville and Moss Landing host nearly all the artichoke fields.

Castroville Artichoke Festival is held every year in May and features large and colorful parades, two days of live music, agro art competition where three-dimensional fruit and vegetable artwork is presented by participants, farmers markets, and field tours. Other activities include arts and crafts, artichoke souvenirs sales, wine tasting and cooking demos. At Castroville Artichoke Festival, children are offered games, face painting, clowns, stilt walkers, puppets, and more.

With the main theme of this food festival being artichoke, foods offered during the festival are nevertheless various. Apart from artichokes, fried, sauteed, grilled, marinated, pickled, fresh, and creamed as soup, visitors are offered foods from many ethnic groups that give Monterey County its character.

Marilyn Monroe, Norma Jean at the time, was Castroville's first honorary Artichoke Queen in 1948. Mrs. Sally DeSante Hebert was crowned 1st Artichoke Queen. The first Artichoke King was Andrew O'Desky in 1974. William Hung was crowned the Artichoke King on May 21, 2006.


1st Artichoke Festival (former May Day Parade)

Artichoke Kids

Before there was an Artichoke Festival and parade, Castroville hosted an annual May Day Parade. The focus was for marching bands.

Castroville, Watsonville and Napa hosted parades where bands could participant and could qualify (compete to earn enough competition points to gain a berth at nationals) then to go to the state championship.

The state finals were held in October in Santa Clara. Bands would practice at the Castroville School ball fields; then state championship eliminations were held at the Old Castroville Community Center Field, (This is where the Andy Ausonio Library and Family Resource Center are today).

In November 1959 Phillip P. Marinovich moved his home base to Castroville.

Phil (1927-2008) leader and chief instructor of The Phil Marinovich Marching Units (former Pajaronian Marching Accordion Band.)

When Phil told members of the community that the marching band winners were asked to return their trophies for the next competition. It was unanimous that the community needed to come together to have an organized fundraiser.

Parade Cowboys and Horses

The decision to have a Festival was made. Selecting the name followed. The artichoke seemed like a good idea, since it was now one of the major crops growing around Castroville. The artichoke crops replaced the sugar beets, which in the past was the main crop growing from Watsonville to the Salinas Valley. Marvin Sarmento, and Lefty Cursi, gave the parade the name it bears today.

It was Gene Bojiatto and John Forsetto who were instrumental in getting the growers together to form the Castroville Artichoke Advisory Board. The goal was publicizing the artichoke industry.

Mervin Sarmento, Bill Price, Pete DiMarco, Jess Estrada, Andy and Nancy Ausonio, Lefty and Wilma Cursi, and Mrs. Teodoro Castro (members of the Chamber of Commerce) the Castroville Rod and Gun Club, and the Phil Marinovich Marching Units, were now on the new Artichoke Festival Committee and it was formed in 1959.

In 1961 it was decided to hold a queen contest. The queen contest offered a scholarship for College. Miss Sally DeSante, now Mrs. Michael Herbert, is Castroville’s 1st Artichoke Queen.

In 1963 the Chamber became the sole sponsor, working with a community committee headed by Bill Price, one of the originators of the festival.

Artichoke Flower

By 1967 all areas of the festival were united under one Artichoke Festival Committee, and later under an incorporated board, a practice that continues to this day.

The Artichoke Festival is traditionally a three-day celebration. Beginning on Friday night with the official counting of ballots of the queen contestants. Highlights of Saturday’s activities are, the selection and crowning of the new Artichoke Queen and the dance. 6AM Sunday morning began with a pancake breakfast (hosted by the Fire Department) at the Community Center. By mid-morning, the parade began around 10AM.

Cooperating organizations include: The Booster Club, Castroville Rotary, North Monterey County Mothers Club, Castroville & Prunedale Chamber of Commerce, Castroville District Recreation Board, Prune Country C.B. Club, the Castroville Fire Department, Sheriff Department, and the Community at large.

The Artichoke Festival committee called special attention to individuals who have been associated with the Artichoke Festival from the beginning. Mr. Cato Phillips, honorary mayor of Castroville, was also parade marshal. Mr. Bill Price, Mrs. Ted Castro, Mr. Mervin Sarmento, and Mr. Lefty Cursi.

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