California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

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Hayward Zucchini Festival Attracts Thousands

This year’s Zucchini Festival entertained thousands of Bay Area residents August 20 and 21 with an abundance of lively entertainment, an assortment of arts and crafts, diverse shops, eateries and most importantly, fried zucchini.

The twenty-ninth annual festival provided families and friends a two-day celebration of community and recreation, with about 20,000 in attendance each day at Kennedy Park in Hayward.

“I’ve been coming here every year since I was a kid, it’s definitely a family tradition,” said San Leandro resident Kelly Giammone. “It’s a great place to come together as a community and feel proud of where we come from and have a whole lot of fun while we’re at it.”

Created in 1983 as a means of stimulating the Hayward economy and to raise funds for local non-profit organizations and charities, the Zucchini Festival has held true to its core values of creating a fun, safe and economic environment for families across the Bay Area.

Zucchini’s became the inspiration for the festival as Hayward Community Gardens confirmed at the time a large majority of Hayward residents who had gardens harvested zucchini.

General Manager Rich Essi, who calls himself “Hayward’s greatest hero,” said the festival is a Hayward landmark—a communal celebration that he felt the city of Hayward does not support enough.

“We need more support from this city, they need to back us up and they haven’t been recently,” he said. “We generate way over $10,000, local businesses make money which becomes sales tax for the city, and they don’t support us like we should be.  We create revenue, but they don’t help us, now is that fair?”

Essi, who has lived in Hayward for over 40 years and is the festival’s general manager since 1991, recalled his immigrant roots and how in a sense, the festival helped fuel an ideal of upward mobility and opportunity for immigrants in America through business.

He felt there is no better reason than to keep the festival alive in Hayward for many more generations to come as a place where businesses can grow and families can have fun.

With 25 food vendors selling a diverse collection of plates from gyros to tamales, over 100 tents selling products such as feather extensions, candles and canine treats, and 30 or so community and non-profit groups, this year’s festival packed the park with an assortment of activities and shops for attendees to enjoy.

The entertainment was one of the most sought after events this year, as headliners included Bonnie Pointer of The Pointer Sisters and Phil “Fang” Volk of Paul Revere & the Raiders, along with 10 other bands on the main stage and several community performances on the Bohannon Stage.

“The music is real grassroots stuff, it’s appealing and relatable,” said Mike McClein of Hayward. “It’s just good entertainment no matter how small in name the acts might be, we just want to have fun and rock.”

Aiming to create economic growth for small-businesses in the East Bay, this year’s festival attracted long-time vendors as well as new ones, as the attractiveness of increasing their profits at an event so heavily attended offered an opportunity to change their economic drought, they said.

“It’s that one-on-one experience of tasting and seeing the product that helps our business in a way online never can,” said Robert Chatfield of Primos Gourmet Food Company. “That’s what makes venues like this so effective for businesses.”

For Norm Greg Studios, who has been selling custom airbrush shirts at the festival for 12 years, quite simply said, “it’s all about the Zucchini festival, doesn’t get any better than this.”

As the second oldest and biggest among 19 zucchini festivals in the country, according to Essi, this year’s festival was a huge success as families enjoyed eclectic food, music and shopping, all the while experiencing community and festivities in Hayward.

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Hayward Zucchini Festival Attracts Thousands