“Catch the small town magic.” Vicky Parish Smith, then the Kelseyville Pear Festival’s publicity director, coined the phrase in 2014. Small-town magic it is. The event that started as a minor street fair in 1993 now attracts over 10,000 people to the village of Kelseyville. The Kelseyville Pear Festival has become the largest one-day event in Lake County.
In the early spring of 1993, a small core of Kelseyville Business Association members met for their monthly meeting to discuss festival plans for the coming year. At one point, a member suggested presenting just one large, major festival for the year. Kelseyville was considered the main agricultural center of the County and it was a time when the Bartlett Pear was King. The billboard outside of town announced, “Kelseyville is the Pear Capital of the World”. Someone mentioned that Gilroy had the Garlic Festival and remarked, “Let’s present a Pear Festival.” That was the beginning!
Two women, Tootsie Huggins of Huggins Work Wear and Marilyn Holdenried of Holdenried Farms, volunteered to co-chair the first Kelseyville Pear Festival. Their committee was comprised of Main Street business owners. The mission statement for the festival was to showcase and support the small businesses on Main Street, Kelseyville, and to celebrate the agricultural heritage of Big Valley.
In 1993, the first year, the Main Stage with music was located at the local gas station, Jim’s Arco, now the location of the Kelseyville Fire Department. There were about 20 vendors, including pear pies which sold out quickly. Fifteen hundred guests arrived that first year. As the years went on, more and more volunteers from the community stepped up to assist, and more and more events were added to the kaleidoscope of the festival.
A precursor to the present-day Farm to Fork dinner was the popular Pear Maker Dinner. It was held at one of the local restaurants on the Thursday evening before the festival. Every course showcased a Lake County pear. That Dinner later moved to the Courtyard of Wildhurst Winery with the well-known cowboy singer Dave Stamey as entertainment.
But, the COVID pandemic that began in 2019 spread to the U.S. and, by 2020, crushed any thought of bringing together thousands of people in one place. Reluctantly, the Kelseyville Pear Festival Committee canceled the 2020 affair. Following the advice of medical experts, the committee again canceled the 2021 event.
With health concerns waning in 2022, the KPF Committee eagerly jumped back into planning the 28th Kelseyville Pear Festival. The immediate positive response from the community bolstered the committee’s enthusiasm. Applications for parade spots came streaming in. Over 130 vendors vied to offer their wares and food. Three stages were created to provide musical entertainment. Kid’s Town and Horse Faire returned with something for everyone. And the ever-popular pear pie eating contest was reborn.
A bigger and better Kelseyville Pear Festival is in store. Catch the small-town magic. Kelseyville Pear Festival, Saturday, September 24th, 9 AM to 4:00 PM, in Kelseyville.