Bay Area Life

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San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival 30

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The Center for Asian American Media hosted the 30th Annual San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival for the past week and a half. The festival is the largest Asian American Film Festival in the United States and draws thousands of supporters every year. The red carpet is pulled out for famous celebrities and those that are up-and-coming. The festival honored Joan Chen for her great achievement in being a pioneer of Asian American media.

This year kicked off at the famous Castro Theatre, with the world premier of “White Frog” directed by Quentin Lee, with a great supporting cast. The feature starred renowned actress Joan Chen, BD wong, Booboo Stewart, Harry Shum Jr., and Tyler Posey. After the premier, guests headed over to the Asian Art Museum to enjoy the always fun and festive Opening Night Gala to mingle, eat and drink, and dance the night away.

Over the weekend, the festival held a program called Directions in Sound, where artists can display their talents through music. The festival also hosted the Festival Forum, which is the festivals largest free program, where guests can watch local artists, performers, and other media. The forum was held in Japantown’s Peace Plaza. The Centerpiece film for the festival was “Yes, We’re Open” by Richard Wong and H.P. Mendoza.

The festival held surprisingly the most entertaining program that I have ever been to at the SFIAAFF, that program came last Wednesday when Tadashi Nakamura brought his documentary about Jake Shimabukuro to the big screen in its premier. The well written and captured scenes throughout Jake’s tour around the world playing the ukulele was one of the best documentaries that I’ve ever seen. Following the documentary was a special live performance by Jake Shimabukuro. Throughout his performance he was joined on stage by The Dominator, who won a contest giving him the opportunity to play live on stage.  Jake then followed up by playing alongside his brother and his mother who sang. The program at the Castro Theatre was a sell out and I cannot remember a time when the whole building was filled.

The SF Closing Night program, Prison Dancer: The interactive Web Musical, was very unique and different, where the audience took participation in this interactive experience. The web musical is based on the Philippine prisoners who were known for dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. The program featured the web based media that was made alive through a karaoke-styled performance by the characters themselves. The characters also got the audience to move and dance along to one of the created dances. The web series will be updated about every two weeks on their website.

Finally, as the festival closed out their week in San Francisco, San Jose became the heart of the festival as the last remaining three days of the festival moved about 50 miles south. The San Jose Opening Night feature was Michael Kang’s “Knots” with actors, such as Sung Kang and Illeana Douglas. The movie was followed up by a gala at the San Jose Museum of Art.

The SFIAAFF Jury Award Winners for 2012 are:
In The Family: Comcast Narrative Award
A Lot Like You: Best Documentary Award
Director Patrick Wang (In The Family): Emerging Filmmaker Award

Loni Ding Award: Mina T. Son for Roots and Reality

If you would like more information about the festival please visit their website at www.caamedia.org

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56th Annual North Beach Festival

56th Annual North Beach Festival (click here for images)

The North Beach Festival never fails to be one of my favorite festivals to attend in the summer in San Francisco. The pleasant aromas of Italian pasta sauces and freshly oven baked pizzas fill the air. This year’s festival received some amazing weather and the attendance was beyond great. People filled Grant Avenue and Washington Square to enjoy the fun and leisure of the festival. Great music, great food, great art, and great vendors filled every nook and cranny.

Throughout the day, both Saturday and Sunday, the streets were jam packed with people observing and buying local art, sampling and buying snacks from food vendors, obtaining information from informative booths, and the randomly placed street performers to entertain.

Two main stages kept the crowds entertained with great artists who played a lot of upbeat Jazz and Contemporary music. The stage at Washington Square has the capacity to hold thousands of people with food & beer vendors and product vendors surrounding the park. The Green Street stage has a smaller area, but that doesn’t mean that the artists performing there are anything but small. With that said there was great music on Green Street as well as local bars and restaurants surrounding the stage along with food and beer vendors along from Columbus to Grant Avenue. There was also a smaller stage out on Filbert Street, but the majority of performances came from the other two main stages, the Filbert stage was more of a beer garden that had ambient music.

On Vallejo Street, chalk artists drew and colored some amazing pieces of art on the concrete. There were spaces for several artists to display their work, but there also were a couple available squares for anyone to make chalk art for a small nominal fee. Also on Vallejo Street, a sponsoring Las Vegas vendor came to build a large sand sculpture of a mini Las Vegas in a large sandbox with the sponsors giving out prizes for spinning a wheel.

Overall, the North Beach Festival was the place to be in San Francisco for the weekend of Father’s Day. It was such a beautiful weekend with amazing food, art, and music. People put on their happy faces and it seemed like the day was just meant to be perfect. Great festival to attend, bring out your family, friends, and neighbors next year because it’s going to be fun. You can count on that.

Pictures of the North Beach Festival can be seen by clicking on the picture link above. If this post was informative and helpful, please feel free to leave me a comment or donation below. Thank you.

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Haight Ashbury Street Fair 2010

Haight Ashbury Street Fair 2010 (click here for images)

The Haight Ashbury Street Fair is a San Francisco fair that promotes love, not war. It is one that brings back nostalgic memories for those that grew up during the 60s and 70s when Flower Power and spiritual freedom reigned supreme. Although, the fair promotes this much differently than how they did almost half a century ago, there are still a few people present at the festival that are there to talk and educate you about how the way things were and some there that are unable to change and are living according to the way of life back in the day. Some of their ideologies are still promoted, but protesting is done in a more calmer way with signing of petitions.

The fair is held for one day and extends from Stanyan Street to Masonic Blvd. Two main stages are on opposite ends of the fair. The main type of music that is performed at this fair is mostly rock; however, there are a few exceptions to this. Almost in the middle of the fair is a smaller stage where other bands and groups play in the kid’s zone. In addition to these official stages, there are a few other musicians throughout the fair that perform in random corners or public spaces. Some of the musicians that freelance on the streets played Jazz, Rock, and Peruvian music.

Similar to the Union Street Festival, the Haight Ashbury Street Fair has similar types of food. Most vendors from the previous weeks festival were also there for this festival and pretty much show up to other various festivals throughout the San Francisco festival circuit.

In contrast to the Union Street Festival, the Haight Ashbury Street Fair (HASF) brings about a different vibe and culture. The fair of Love, Joy, and Peace is one that seems to promote a bit more liberalism out of all festivals throughout San Francisco. For example the air is filled with abundant smells of marijuana, the homeless population populate the streets, a few people with petitions to sign are scattered throughout, the sale of “special” treats and glass pipes are available, and various types of fortune reading and spiritual freedom representatives are present as well.

If Rock music, tie-dyed shirts, spiritual freedom, and a festival that you just want a sense of relaxation and letting loose, then the HASF is the place to be. To some, the fair can be seen as extreme, but it is part of American culture and for those that want to see just a little taste of what things were like back in the mid to late 20th century then coming to the HASF will help enlighten some people.

Pictures of the HASF can be seen by clicking on the picture link above. If this post was informative and helpful, please feel free to leave me a comment or donation below. Thank you.

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San Francisco’s Carnaval Grand Parade and Festival 2010

Carnaval Grand Parade and Festival 2010 (click here for images)

The Carnaval Grand Parade is a parade that takes place on the last day of the Carnaval Festival. This year’s theme for Carnaval was Colors of Sound / Splashes of Culture. The parade kicked off at about 9:30am, however things were a little backed up and so the parade started a little later than that. The parade started off on 24th Street and Bryant Street and continued until it hit Mission Street. The parade then turned onto Mission Street and continued all the way down until 17th Street where the parade then did a final right turn towards the festival grounds at Harrison street.

The Grand Parade was great this year with many attenders this year. The weather was amazing and a little too hot for myself, but I’m sure most of the people there that day enjoyed it. The lead float of the parade was led by King Miggy and Queen Carmen. They are the winners of the Carnaval King and Queen competition that was held prior to the Carnaval Festival. Both winners of the competition won their titles with their performance of Samba. Each competitor during the competition is given the option of singing, dancing, and/or playing a musical instrument. They are given three minutes to perform and must compete in a Carnaval costume.

The parade consisted of numerous cultures through out the Americas. The majority of the parade consisted of music and dance of the native land from which they represented; however, there were a few countries represented that walked the parade demonstrating the clothing and some of the traditions that was signature to their country. The parade seemed to last forever with probably more participants than previous years. This parade I believe was a little over three hours long. It seems much longer when you’re standing in the sun.

The parade grand marshals were Benjamin Bratt and Peter Bratt. They were followed in part with the rest of their cast in the movie “La Mission”. The actors sat in the restored vintage car portion of the parade and cruised in style while being applauded as they travelled down Mission Street. Some cars were tricked out with hydraulics enabling the cars to bounce, be raised and lowered from the back axle and also the front axle with the ability to be raised and lowered left and right as well.

The theme for Carnaval this year was truly played out to the fullest as all the units in the parade displayed vivid colors. This festival is probably ranked one of my favorite festivals to attend every year because of the vast amounts of color, happy participants, and enthused on-lookers.

Following the parade, attenders were welcomed at the festival that was located on Harrison Street where the festivities continued with food, drink, fun, and other various performances. The festival following the parade is probably the time when people who feel claustrophobic shouldn’t attend purely for the fact that thousand upon thousands of people pack the venue. As with the previous day of the festival, Sunday is just jam packed with people and sometimes trying to get around can get a little frustrating when you move throughout the 6 blocks at a snail’s pace.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the turnout of the festival and I’m sure I’ll be back again to enjoy another year of awesome fun and food. I hope to see you all there next year. Bring your family and friends because it’s going to be a great time.

Pictures of Carnaval can be seen by clicking on the picture link above. If this post was informative and helpful, please feel free to leave me a comment or donation below. Thank you.

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San Francisco’s Carnaval 2010

Carnaval 2010 (click here for images)

Carnaval this year was great and surprisingly hot. People from all over the Bay and the country came out to check out this special celebration of various cultures from Mexico, Central America, South America, and a few other countries as well. The majority of the festival took place on the Harrison Street where vendors sold their food and products. The festival started off light, but by mid-day the crowd packed the streets.

Like most festivals, this festival had a couple of stages for live performances, there were a couple of drinking areas, and throughout the festival there were food and shopping available. This festival also had a new addition this year and it was an area dedicated to dancing. Most of the music at the festival was Latin inspired, but there was Jazz and Reggae as well. For the kids, there was an area for a little batting practice and a few inflattable jumping zones.

The festival lasted for two days with the final day having a Grand Parade on Sunday. Great event for family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and all. If you haven’t been to this you’ll be in for a surprise because this is one of the festivals that can get jam packed. Especially on the day of the Grand Parade when parade attenders flock to Harrison Street after the parade down Mission Street.

Pictures of the Carnaval festival can be seen by clicking on the picture link above. If this post was informative and helpful, please feel free to leave me a comment or donation below. Thank you.

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Asian Pacific American Heritage Awards 2010

Asian Pacific American Heritage Awards 2010 (click here for images)

The Asian Pacific American Heritage Awards kicked off the Asian Heritage Month here in San Francisco at the Herbst Theatre in Civic Center. The Awards ceremony first started with classical music by cellist Charles Wang. The evening progressed with the granting of awards to the following from local dignitaries:

For Emerging Leadership: Thomas Li

For Lifetime Achievement: Dr. Edward Chow

For Community Impact: Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center

Throughout the award ceremony three performances took to the stage with a glow stick performance, a Southern Asian dance troupe, and folk dance from a Burmese group. The finale for the awards ceremony was remarkable with community involvement from all parts of Asia, including that of Vietnam, China, Japan, Pacific Islanders, Burma, South Asia, and many others. The finale was very colorful, not to mention very entertaining.

Following the awards ceremony was a time of Asian styled refreshments from local restaurants and sponsors on the second floor of the War Memorial Building. The food was delicious and the attendance was great. Ending off the night with food and mingling, what more can one ask for. Congratulations to all the award winners and thank you to all the sponsors who made this night possible.

Pictures of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Awards can be seen by clicking on the picture link above. If this post was informative and helpful, please feel free to leave me a comment or donation below. Thank you.

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Cherry Blossom Festival 2010

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The Cherry Blossom Festival once again never fails to be a fabulous festival and by no means does it get boring year after year. It’s a great Japanese cultural festival traditionally held here in San Francisco’s Japantown. The festival was held for two weekends this year in April and this year the weather was a little unpredictable. The first weekend of the festival it had rained and it really put a damper on attendance.

Although poor weather was present the first weekend, it did not rain on their parade, no pun intended. The second weekend of the festival received great sunny weather. It actually felt like summer in San Francisco for once.

Great things were to be seen at the festival with awesome cultural dances, cultural music, taiko drumming, cultural films, arts and crafts, an origami exhibit, a bonsai tree exhibit, a Japanese paper doll exhibit, a samurai sword exhibit, import cars, live jazz and funk bands, mochi making, great food, and much much more.

Probably the most interesting exhibit at the festival would have to be the Japanese paper doll exhibit. So much time and effort must be put into them that it shows in the final result. The precision that one must have to undergo is just astounding. The paper dolls were very colorful and full of life and you would not have guessed that the clothing would have been made out of folded and cut paper. Pictures of this exhibit and a few other exhibits I mentioned can be found on the link from the next posting.

Great fun and entertainment, the Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the greatest cultural festivals that is held here in San Francisco. If you haven’t checked it be sure to mark it on your calendars for next year because it will be a great time, you can count on that.

Pictures of the Cherry Blossom Festival can be seen by clicking on the picture link above. If this post was informative and helpful, please feel free to leave me a comment or donation below. Thank you.

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San Francisco International Dragon Boat Festival 2009

SF International Dragon Boat Festival (click here for images)

Every year teams from all over come to San Francisco Bay to compete in the Dragon Boat races located at Treasure Island. This year good weather brings about good competition and lots of festival goers. At first glance, the festival seems to be a little more organized this year with organized parking lots, more seating for the entertainment stage, a larger kid’s zone, and a section for the finish line officials that is not obstructed by people because it was elevated.

Treasure Island has been the location for these races for quite some time now and it’s been great to be able to travel not so far from San Francisco to part take in some beautiful weather and with great views of San Francisco’s skyline. The festival took place on September 26th and 27th from 8-5pm. I enjoyed the festival on Sunday with beautiful sunny skies. Most of the day were races for the high school divisions, but I believe later in the day the finals for other groups took place along with an awards ceremony to follow.

This year I spent most of my time enjoying the live entertainment taking place on the large stage built near the entrance to the festival. There I was able to enjoy different various martial arts, some singing, and my favorite lion dancing.

Festival goers could take part in many activities this year on location which included Dragon Land (arts and crafts for the youth), a variety of international food vendors, shopping (gifts and other various memorabilia), a health and fitness tent, a couple informational booths, live entertainment, and of course the dragon boat races.

Sunday at the festival was Family Day and families with children were encouraged to come while mascots and other festival characters were there to greet. I personally got to see some stilt walkers around the grounds, Nickelodeon’s Kai-lan, a red and green dragon, a balloon artist, and some volunteers who helped put on temporary tattoos.

Each year the entertainment and the booths become more interesting and as the years press on I’m looking forward to a much larger audience with an ever increasing number of exciting and new vendors. If you haven’t seen dragon boat races before well mark your calenders next year as the competition is fierce for the 300m and 500m races. Parking is free and there are shuttles on and off the island. Passage to and from the island from San Francisco is free, but visitors coming from the East Bay will still have to pay a bridge toll to access the island.

Pictures of the SF International Dragon Boat Festival can be seen by clicking on the picture link above. Feel free to leave comments below for the pictures and the posting.

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California State Fair

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The California State Fair is held annually in Sacramento (the state capital of California). Each year the Cal Expo hosts an over two week long celebration of what California has to offer and ends Labor Day. This year’s theme for the fair was “Weird Wild & Wacky” and at the fair there is a vast array of things to do. No one that comes to the fair will be disappointed because there is always something for everyone.

One good reason to come to the fair is to see Terry Stokes, the hypnotist, live on the PG&E Center Stage. Every year Stokes brings onto the stage volunteers from the audience in hopes to put them under his trance. While the group is hypnotized, Stokes is able to get the majority of them to do what he asks them to do as long as it is within the audience member’s morals. Oftentimes, he gets the audience laughing and entertains them so much that they stay and watch his entire show uninterrupted not wanting to miss a single moment.

Another thing to check out at the fair is the livestock that is displayed in the Livestock Pavilion and Cavalcade of Horses Arena. There you can find pigs, horses, lambs, goats, sheep, and other various farm animals. Cattle contests and horse wagon shows are just some of the events that take place almost every day at the fair and there are a few days where even a rodeo comes to town. In the California Ranchland section of the expo there is a petting zoo for all ages, where a couple of dollars can get you entry and the ability to feed all sorts of animals.

Exhibits in the Expo Center Buildings are always quite interesting. There are 8 buildings that make up the Expo Center. Each building displays something different to showcase off what Californians have done for the fair. The exhibit halls this year are Youth Art & Design, California Foodstyle, Wild, Wacky & Wonderful California (new to this years exhibit hall), It’s a Candy Nation (also new), Industrial & Technology, Fur & Feathers, California Fine Arts, and California Creative Arts.

Next to the Expo is a 9/11 Memorial that plays tribute to those that lost their lives on that day. There represented is a cross-beam that was part of the actual building, a twin towers replica, and a rotating 5,000 lb. granite ball with the names of those fallen which sits afloat on top of a small water fountain.

If the exhibits and the animals are not enough entertainment and fun for the family there’s a midway and carnival rides for the kids and the adults. The larger carnival is on the west end of the expo, whereas, the kid’s carnival is on the eastern end. Food vendors line all paths of the fairgrounds and if you don’t see one you haven’t been looking hard enough. Staples at the fair are funnel cakes, turkey legs, fried veggies, kettle corn, and corn dogs.

If entertainment is not your thing, there is a lot of shopping that you can do at the fair. Inside of a couple buildings there is a shoppers expo. Here you can find local businesses, even businesses from out of state here. Vendors present all sorts of things to buy from food snacks to “As Seen On TV” items. Make sure to bring disposible income because there are tons of things that are useful.

Adjacent to the shopping expo, there also is a couple of buildings that are dedicated to displays of the various counties that are in California. Each county has the opportunity to display what their county has to offer and usually they do so with big displays and lots of brochures. Some displays are pretty interesting and you can tell that a lot of thought has gone into developing them. Not all counties actually show up to display, but a majority of them come out to represent themselves.

If entertainment and shopping is just not what you are looking for you can just sit back and relax or take a walk in the Floriculture section of the expo, The Farm, the California Forest Center or even Raging Waters (at an additional cost).

Every year the fair has a pretty entertaining line up for the fair’s concert series. This year the fair was able to book the following groups to perform on the Golden 1 Circle Stage. They were David Cook, Jay & The Americans, Cannibal & The Headhunters, Merrilee Rush, Badfinger, SOnny Geraci and Otis Day, Tonic, Salvador, The Fab Four, Martha Munizzi, Tarde De Ritmo Y Recuerdos, Lou Gramm, M.C. Hammer, Three Dog Night, Blake Shelton, and Tops in Blue.

On September 3rd, M.C. Hammer performed live on the Golden 1 Circle Stage. He put on a good show for everyone and brought some of his old classics back. A few familiar songs that he played were “U Can’t Touch This”, “Too Legit to Quit”, “Addams Grove” (edited version of “The Addam Family”), and “Turn This Mutha Out”. M.C. Hammer said to his audience that he’s not there to perform and that he in not presenting a show, he was there to party and a party it was. He got everyone standing on their feet in the groove of things and later towards the end of his appearance he brought 30-40 people up on stage just to dance during two songs. Fans went crazy when on stage and it ended up being a club scene on stage. People on stage sure had a good time dancing, singing, shaking hands  and taking pictures with M.C. Hammer. Although, M.C. Hammer is getting older he still knows how to put on a great show and get the audience involved, a true sign of a good entertainer.

In our recession the fair still ends each evening off with a display of fireworks for about 10 minutes at 10 PM. The fireworks are shot off from the horse track and viewable from the grand stand as well as the eastern end of the fairgrounds. The carnival on the western side of the fairgrounds is open one hour after the rest of the grounds closes.

Pictures of the California State Fair can be seen by clicking on the picture link above.

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Eat Real Festival

Eat Real Festival (click here for images)

The first ever Eat Real Festival was held at Jack London Square in one of Oakland’s most famous historic places. The event spanned over a three day period, but there were a few events held that led up to major festivities. Friday at the festival was pretty much an ice cream night with a late night film. Saturday was an all day event where everyone can enjoy live performances, foods galore, a farmers market, cooking demonstrations and talks, a beer shed, a butchery contest, scenic views of the marina, and local shopping at the outdoor mall. Sunday was a shorter day, but still filled with good food and live music.

I visited the festival on Saturday and the day started off in extreme heat. I’m not use to hot weather so any opportunity that I had to take shelter under some shade or inside a building was the key to staying cool and away from heat exhaustion. As I entered the festival near about the time the festival started lines for food vendors started building up and crowds of people came swarming in. The amount of diverse representation of foods and desserts at the festival were mind boggling.

Compared to San Francisco’s Street Food Festival that took place a week before the Eat Real Festival, the festival was able to accommodate the amount of people that showed up. Jack London Square proved to be a venue where many people can come to check out local good eats without having to wait astronomical amounts of time for food. San Francisco also had to cram everything within one block so that didn’t help things. The food festival at Jack London Square was about two blocks long, utilizing the waterfront, the water fountain plaza, and the newly soon to be farmers market building.

Performances on the music and film stage were also diverse. Different types of music performed or played on stage ranged from Hip Hop to contemporary Pop. They had a small orchestra, dancers, and even a guy playing a shovel (make-shift guitar) on stage.

Some people took advantage from the heat by going inside the new farmers market building to check out local grown fruits and vegetables, as well as other goodies. Only the ground floor was open to the public with two aisles of vendors. A small indoor theater was created for visitors and a couple street food vendors set up shop inside also.

The food at the festival was reasonably priced between $1-$5 per portion. Of the food that I was able to try, they were pretty good. I loved the idea of this festival that I hope to see more festivals like this more often. One huge benefit that I saw this festival having was the fact that a large amount of diversity can be brought to one location where you’re given endless choices of food to decide on eating. I think the next time I come to a festival like this I will come with a huge appetite because everything looked so good to eat, but the stomach can only take so much in.

In no particular order, the following is a list of food vendors that represented at the festival: Zella’s Soulful Kitchen, Sam’s Chowder Van, Chaac Mool, Estrellita’s Snacks, Los Cilantros, Urban Nectar, Pizza Politana, Botanas , elicitas, Gobba Gobba Hey, Phatt Matt’s BBQ, Sweetface Bakery, 5e5 : Farinata on Wheels, SF Pie Truck, Wholesome Bakery, Nieves Cinco de May, El Porteno, The Creme Brulee Cart, Gelateria Cici, Roli Roti, Ritual Coffee Roasters, Localicious, 4505 Meats, Saul’s Restaurant & Delicatessen, Liba Falafel Truck, Oren’s Kitchen, Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda County: Taste of Home, Tim Luym From Poleng Lounge, Soul Cocina, Amuse Bouche, Los Angeles de Pueblas Frutas, Laloo’s, Adobo Hobo, Aisu Pop, Gerard’s Paella, Sexy Soup Cart, Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q, Chop Bar, Seoul on Wheels, Straus Family Creamery, Jon’s Street Eats, Fruit Cart by Cecilia Lopez, Pepito’s Ice Cream, Amanda’s Feel Good Fresh Food, Shuga Hill Catering, Fat Bottom Bakery, Yanet’s Desserts, and Kara’s Cupcakes.

More information on the Eat Real Festival can be found here.

Photos from the Eat Real Festival can be viewed by clicking the image link above.