It’s time for a big helping of peace, love and guacamole. The 32nd annual California Avocado Festival rolls into downtown Carpinteria this weekend (Oct 5-7) offering tempting tri-tip sandwiches, cool avocado ice cream and sides of ska, soul and rock ‘n’ roll. Carpinteria’s Avofest is the southland’s largest free street fair, with entertainment for almost every taste from Latin rhythms to classic country music. Each October over 100,000 locals and guests descend on Linden Avenue to sip suds, savor snow cones and listen to dozens of bands playing on the festival’s four stages. The line-up also includes family friendly acts on the Kid’s Stage, located just off Linden on 7th Street.
“The festival is about having fun. I mean, how serious can we be? We’re throwing a party for an avocado!” Entertainment Director Mike Lazaro mused. Seventy-five acts will perform at this year’s festival.
Rock ‘n’ pop
The tight, harmony-driven rock The Tearaways play have made them a top regional and internationally recognized band. The Los Angeles Times said their haunting original “Jessica Something” was one the 1990’s quintessential pop songs. Each summer during “Beatles Week” The Tearaway’s perform at Liverpool’s legendary Cavern Club. They will play Saturday night on the Main Stage from 7:15 to 8:30 p.m.
Carpinteria songwriter Jamey Geston entertains on Friday at 3 p.m. at the Seal Stage. She began her career singing at the Avocado Festival and has evolved into a young touring musician who recently appeared at Santa Barbara’s Soho Nightclub. Geston’s songs have unusual alt-rock textures, cascading melodies and lyrical shadows.
Carpinteria City Manager/bassist Dave Durflinger will perform Friday at 9 p.m. on the Seal Stage with rock act South On Linden. Lead vocalist Trish Remley digs deep to help re-create the band’s up-tempo, classic rock covers. Don't miss Sgt. Pepper, the South Coast’s top Beatles tribute band. They have three great guitarists/vocalists and a dynamic drummer with real singing chops. Sgt. Pepper will perform Lennon & McCartney’s timeless harmonies on Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. on the Seal Stage.
Local ska sensations The Upbeat draw the festival’s biggest crowd. Formed in Carpinteria in the mid-80s, lead vocalist Mike Organista says the band’s Jamaican-infused music has evolved over time. “We started with the 2-Tone sound and were the only band around playing English ska/punk. Reggae is the undercurrent of our musical form but now most of our music is original,” said Organista. Come early to see The Upbeat perform on the Main Stage on Saturday from 5:45 to 6:45 p.m.
San Luis Obispo reggae act The Kicks have a laid-back groove. They describe their music as “female led roots reggae with soul and jazz influences and conscientious lyrics, written under the California sun.” Reese Galido is the band’s lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist and is supported by six top musicians. Come sway to their music on Sunday from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Grotto Tent.
The Crooked Eye Tommy Band is fronted by guitarist/vocalist Tommy Marsh. The band plays original So Cal style blues featuring a double lead guitar attack, steamy Allman Brothers-style organ and a solid brass section. Tommy says their sound is a mix of deep-seeded blues and smoky southern rock. They’re Avofest regulars and perform Saturday from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. on the Main Stage. Local guitar hero Rick Reeves will handle Main Stage MC duties all weekend. Reeves can stretch notes like Beckham bends soccer balls. He once opened for the late great B.B. King at the Ventura Theater. Reeves and his talented Blues All-Stars will close the festival’s Main Stage on Sunday at 5 p.m.
The Laughing Buddha Song Stars will perform at the Grotto Stage on Friday at 1 p.m. These local songwriters and singers gather each month to exchange new songs. The talented collective will present original and cover tunes in an “in the round” format.
Phil Salazar may be the best fiddler on the West Coast. This in-demand musician and session artist has performed at the Alcazar Theatre and is a regular at Avofest. His sound embraces the folk roots of Bluegrass, Americana and Celtic fiddle styles. Watch Salazar’s fingers fly and be bowed over at his 3 to 4:40 p.m. Saturday performance on the Grotto Stage. After a long absence from the festival, Ventura folk-rocker Phil Cody is returning to play Saturday on the Seal Stage from 4:15 to 5:15 p.m. His open tuned originals have early Bob Dylan and Paul Simon influences. Cody’s acoustic guitar and harmonica accompany his haunting melodies.
Latin & soul
Acoustic guitarist Tony Ybarra is one of the area’s finest Latin and jazz influenced musicians. A fixture at local venues and private events, Ybarra will showcase his superb skills at the Grotto Stage on Friday afternoon from 4 to 4:40 p.m. Anthony Prieto’s rich, vibrato-driven vocals are a treat to hear. He may have the festival’s biggest voice. Sometimes Prieto ventures off the stage and sings directly to appreciative audience members. Experience his soulful Latin sound and talented band this Sunday from 1 to 2 p.m. on the Main Stage. Bring your dancing shoes. Other great Latin and soul acts appearing at this year’s festival include Mestizo, Heart & Soul Band featuring Bella, Grupo 805, Laura Cozzi and Soul Machine, Grooveline and Mescal Martini.
Jimmie Ray and Cyndi Cantrell perform the music of Johnny and June Carter Cash. This talented married duo tour the West Coast each year playing hits including, “Folsom Prison Blues,” “A Boy Named Sue” and “Ring Of Fire.” Jimmie’s deep baritone and Cyndi’s soulful renditions will be supported by a band of top local musicians. The Cantrells perform Saturday on the Seal Stage from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. Carpinteria’s country band the Dusty Jugz will perform twice at the festival’s Grotto Stage. Their first gig is on Friday night from 9 to 10 p.m. and they return Saturday night to play from 8:45 to 10 p.m. This practiced, popular band is known throughout the area for their classic country sound. This summer guitarist/vocalist Nate Latta and his band headlined Rockabilly Night at Las Vegas’ Golden Tiki Club. They also have ongoing residencies at the Maverick in Santa Ynez and Relm Bistro in Camarillo. He describes his sound as “early country with heart” and plays a hybrid of traditional country and folk with a swinging rockabilly beat. Latta plays the Seal Stage on Sunday from 5 to 6 p.m.
Unless you have a secret spot don’t try to park downtown. Your search for parking will be frustrating and you might get a ticket if you park in the wrong place. Instead, take advantage of the Festival’s Shuttle which leaves frequently from the Carpinteria High School’s large parking lot. It drops you off a block from the festival and the very reasonable parking fee benefits the high school’s athletic department.
While service animals are allowed inside the festival grounds, all other pets are not. Security will ask you to take your dog to the festival’s free Doggy Day Care Center. It’s located a block from the festival next to Lucky Lama Coffee on Carpinteria Avenue.
Bring a hat and sunscreen. Bicycles, scooters and skateboards are not allowed inside the festival. Beer and wine can be purchased at various Avofest booths on Linden, but liquor brought in from the outside is not allowed. Don’t forget to stop by the Carpinteria High School Cheerleaders huge avocado vat and plan on attending the World Championship of Guacamole at noon on Sunday in the Grotto Tent. Have a blast!