The first thing that struck me when we arrived at the festival was the layout. The vendors are arrayed along both sides of a street divided by a meridian. This gives shoppers plenty of room to walk, stop and chat, and generally move about without reducing the flow of foot traffic or making the festival feel overcrowded. The wide open spaces were also a refreshing break for someone used to the packed-in feel of the big city, though Fremont is plenty large. Another thing I appreciated was that the festival producers put most of the service vendors on one of the side stretches, so those looking for something like window replacements or health coverage could wander that stretch and those who don't require any services (No, for the love of breakfast cereal, I do not own a house!) can avoid it.
I was also happy to see many vendors I haven't seen at other festivals. Sugarbird Hollow was selling adorable little houses and campers, seasonal and not. Black Tie Caramel was selling handmade caramels in unique flavors like Coconut Lemongrass as well as caramel sauce. And the Washington High School ceramics program was selling wonderfully unique cups, bowls, plates, and more for absurdly low prices, and proceeds went into the program. There was a good variety of art, although few of the vendors sold prints and many of the canvases were very large. And many vendors that I've seen at the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival and other events had new work or different items on display. The Bubble Wands vendor was there filling the festival with a magical assortment of bubbles.
In terms of food, I wasn't actually impressed with the variety and amount of vendors. Indeed, I didn't eat at the festival. But there was a lot of lemonade, well, everywhere. There were also a couple of Oasis booths selling slushies in kid's and adult's cups, which were refillable for a lower price. In terms of alcohol, this festival had margaritas in addition to various beer and wine choices, which I found unique.
Another bonus of this festival is the amount of freebees handed out by businesses. Places like Blaze Pizza and a couple radio stations were letting people spin a wheel for prizes. Pacific Commons, a Fremont shopping center, was giving out free lip balm. And Lucky was giving out strawberries stuffed with goat cheese and topped with a lemon jam.
Now, onto challenges and tips for enjoying the festival with the least amount of headache. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Free parking was sparse, and most spots required a fair walk to the festival. If you don't get to the festival early, as in shortly before the start, you might have a traffic meltdown. The BART isn't far from the festival, so if you can BART, I'd recommend it. Also, the early bird gets the best freebees without waiting in long lines.
In terms of weather and what to wear, Fremont is HOT. I regretted wearing a t-shirt and jeans, wishing instead I'd chosen a tank top and capris. Sun screen is a must, but it won't be enough. I strongly recommend sun glasses and a hat. There is a lot of open space and very little shade so it feels like the sun is pummeling you the whole time. Fortunately, there were several hat vendors if you forget your own.
If you drive, don't forget about the shopping opportunities around the Pacific Commons area. There's a lot of big box stores, but there's also great food joints like Blaze Pizza, Which Wich, and Buffalo Wild Wings to name a few. And the Century theater is not only large, but its food offerings are unique. They have an ice cream counter that also serves a variety of beer (beer in a theater?!). And the food section is a walk-through affair where you can pick out your own hot dogs, burgers, nachos, candy, kettle corn, drinks, ice cream desserts, and even hummus.
I would definitely put the Fremont Festival of the Arts at the top of my Bay-Area-Miss-Me-Nots list.
Panorama of wide open spaces...
The Nathan village. Hot dog anyone?
Plenty of seating areas scattered throughout.
A map of the festival.
Fremont Fire Department
You could sit in the mini-BART. Always wanted to do this.
Halloween house from Sugarbird Hollow (hey, it's never too early for Halloween).
Camper from Sugarbird Hollow