Friday, July 26, 2013

Alameda Art and Wine Festival

     The Alameda Art and Wine Festival is one of the best festivals in the Bay Area.  I look forward to it every year, and it never lets me down. This year the festival took place on July 27th and 28th from 10am to 6pm. If you're thinking you're not an art or wine fan, don't worry.  Art and wine are just a fraction of the festival.  This event is a shopper's and foodie's paradise.
    You can find the best fair food here (teriyaki chicken bowls, BBQ sandwiches, hot dogs, curly fries, kettle corn, funnel cakes, etc.), but you can also find unusual treats if you're wanting something new.  You can enjoy deep fried artichoke hearts or asparagus, for example, or a whole mango on a stick.  I usually get a teriyaki skewer with a big, juicy heap of chow mien. And I never pass up the opportunity to get garlic fries, even if I have to take them home.  If you don't want alcohol, you can get a big glass of homemade lemonade or a fruit smoothie.
     You can also find any merchandise your heart could desire: hats, scarves, clothes, jewelry, pet products, beauty products, knick knacks, pins, bags, wallets, belts, local art, wall hangings, bowls and cups, wind chimes, etc.  You can even buy Adirondacks, rocking chairs, fountains, hot tubs, and yard decorations.  Many of the products you see are handmade, most are local, and the vendors are friendly and proud of their products.
     Two vendors I want to highlight from my visit this year are Lix Perle and Salma's Treasures.  Lix Perle sells hand-knit scarves, and their small scarf is very chic and one of the most unique styles I've seen (see the picture below).  While I was making my selection, one of the vendors was sitting in a corner of the booth knitting while the other helped me try on the scarf and complete the transaction.  And the prices at Lix Perle are amazingly affordable.  The scarf I purchased was $18, and I've seen other knit scarves and even plain infinity scarves upwards of $90.
     Salma's Treasures is also very affordable.  I was drawn to the hand painted earrings on wooden discs.  You can choose between three sizes.  I prefer the medium size, which are only $15 a pair.  You can choose between trees, scenes from the Bay Area, Bay Area sports teams, and landscapes.  My favorites are the tree designs and the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate designs.  Each set of earrings is hand painted, so no one else is going to have the same earrings you have.  And I got to meet and chat with the artist herself.   You can find both Salma's Treasures and Lix Perle on Etsy.
     I mentioned these two vendors' affordability, but the same is true for all the vendors at the festival.  You can eat and shop without decimating your wallet.  And because the festival is outside, you don't get a feeling of claustrophobia when it gets crowded.  Park street also boasts some of the best businesses in Alameda. You can stop in at one of the shops and take a break from the sun and crowds any time you need. I highly recommend getting ice cream at Tucker's or renting or buying a video from Video Factory.
     One of the biggest positives of this festival is crowd control. The booths and food vendors are arranged in such as a way as to facilitate the movement of shoppers, and there is plenty of room to walk, socialize, or even sit and eat.  Even though there are carnival rides for children, they are located in areas that ensure other shoppers are not overwhelmed by hordes of screaming children. And shoppers are friendly, polite, and smart.  They don't disrupt the flow of traffic by stopping in the middle of the walkway to stare or chat.  They pull off to the side, and they apologize if they bump into you.
     Another bonus of this festival is that you can park in the large parking garage by the Alameda Theater for free (on Saturdays and Sundays).  If you arrive after noon, the garage might be full, but there's plenty of parking in the area.  Be sure to check the park behind the KFC.
     So if you hate crowds, hunting for parking, or are on a budget, but you love local products, delicious food, and shopping, then the Alameda Art and Wine Festival is the best event in the Bay Area to visit.  Check out the photos below to get a feel for the event, and please support your local artists and businesses.  They give you products that come with a story and a memory to cherish.

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