31st Mushroom Mardi Gras attracts record crowds

Colton Reed, 11 months, from Hollister, has some fun with his

About 80,000 people attended the 31st annual Morgan Hill
Mushroom Mardi Gras – perhaps the largest crowd in the festival’s
history, according to event organizers.
About 80,000 people attended the 31st annual Morgan Hill Mushroom Mardi Gras – perhaps the largest crowd in the festival’s history, according to event organizers.

“We dodged a bullet with the weather,” said Ron Woolf under a clear blue sky Sunday afternoon. Treasurer of the Mushroom Mardi Gras board of directors, and a board member for 22 years, Woolf said this weekend’s attendance was the festival’s “biggest crowd ever.”

Expanding the downtown festival with vendors inside the Community and Cultural Center, and onto the new Third Street Promenade helped accommodate the larger crowds, and allowed room for about 50 more vendors that last year, Woolf added, bringing the total number of booths to about 300.

The festival organization presented about $40,000 worth of scholarships to about 40 local high school students, with Mayor Steve Tate assisting in the presentation Sunday and Assemblyman Bill Monning presenting Saturday.

The festival offered a variety of fungal cuisine, arts and crafts and clothing vendors, and three stages of live music and children’s entertainment throughout the weekend. Visitors danced to the music of Shane Dwight, the Joe Sharino Band, fourwayfree and other bands while vendors dispensed a wide variety of jewelry, clothing, handmade crafts, promotions and other merchandise.

Isaac Velasco of Watsonville doesn’t like mushrooms, but he enjoyed a heaping teriyaki bowl for lunch Sunday.

“I might try some mushrooms later on,” Velasco said.

Jasmine Pennix and her two daughters Pilar, 9, and Tyra, 11, attended the Mushroom Mardi Gras for the third year in a row Sunday. The children were guiding Jasmine to the kids’ area shortly after eating chicken cheese-steak sandwiches.

“The kids love all the activities, and the food,” Jasmine said.

On Saturday, two San Martin friends Marsha Vivanco and Sue Albertson said they have been going since festival No. 1 in 1979.

“Even though we’ve been coming here for years, we just love it,” Albertson said.

“This is nothing compared to the first one at Community Park. It was always nice, but it wasn’t like this,” Vivanco said.

“I look forward to it every year,” Albertson said, adding that she likes to get an early start and purchase unique or handmade Christmas gifts.

Valerie Schilling of Santa Clara first brought her daughter to the street fair more than 10 years ago.

“I got her ears pierced at the Mushroom Mardi Gras,” Schilling said about her 15-year-old daughter. Schilling and her family came specifically to eat the mushroom dishes that the street party hails it’s name.

“We’re only eating mushrooms so far and it’s wonderful,” Schilling said.

In a welcomed change from last week, the noon-time temperatures hovered around 75 degrees both days, and attracted many to fill the shade of trees and tents. The family-friendly festival spanned from the Community & Cultural Center down Depot Street.

Street performers find themselves at home at the Mardi Gras, especially Kelly “Texas” Holly who on any other day is 5 feet 7 inches tall, but Saturday and Sunday her stilts sent her high above the crowd.

“There’s good music, nice people,” Holly said, who has been a stilt-walker for seven years and made the drive to Morgan Hill for the festival for the last four.

“I love coming here,” she said.

Some attendees liked the Mardi Gras better at its former sites on Monterey Road and in the Community Park at 170 West Edmundson Ave.

Dave Lofstrom, a former Morgan Hill resident who now lives in San Jose, has attended the spring festival for about 15 years, and he said the Mardi Gras is “not as cool as it used to be.”

He and his wife Mari said they came to the festival Sunday because it was “something to do,” but they preferred the downtown location in recent years because it attracted business to the downtown restaurants and shops.

Brian Musgrave and his family, who have attended the festival for about 20 years, still enjoyed the “good music,” local wines and kids’ activities offered at the event, but he also preferred the festival at its former locations.

Police, event staff and volunteers did not report any criminal incidents of medical emergencies throughout the two-day festival.