Traditions happen when customs are passed from generation to generation. Growing artichokes started as a custom and livelihood for Swiss Italian farmers who planted this thistle as a reminder of home. In 1959, these early farmers came together to raise funds for their community … a place that just happened to have as one of its largest crops — artichokes. That was the beginning of the Castroville Artichoke Festival.
For the last 58 years, the Festival has grown into a celebration of food and wine, art and community. In the early years, it was held in the town of Castroville, timed as a harvest festival to celebrate the end of local artichoke season. Residents and visitors flowed into the cordoned off streets to enjoy the bounty of artichokes — fried, grilled or steamed. A parade wound through downtown and a queen was crowned. The Festival’s first honorary reigning monarch was then little known Hollywood starlet named Norma Jean, who we know today as Marilyn Monroe, a queen of the big screen.
Today, California produces nearly 100 percent of the country’s fresh artichokes, two-thirds of which are still grown in Castroville. In 2014, the Festival had outgrown the streets of Castroville, and moved to the Monterey Fair and Event Center. All involved continue to pay tribute to the intent of the first organizers, never losing sight of the original goal to raise funds to benefit the Monterey Peninsula community.
We look forward to seeing you at the 58th Annual Castroville Artichoke Food & Wine Festival June 3-4, 2017. Purchase your tickets today. For any questions, comments or feedback, please E-mail us here.