Loss of Stockton Asparagus Festival hits home for some
by Sam Matthews
Jun 13, 2014 | 3265 views | 1 1 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Asparagus spears are packed for shipment March 19, 2013, at A.M. Farms on Union Island, north of Tracy. The Stockton Asparagus Festival, an annual celebration of the springtime crop, was canceled Tuesday by its board of directors after a 29-year run.  Press file photo
Asparagus spears are packed for shipment March 19, 2013, at A.M. Farms on Union Island, north of Tracy. The Stockton Asparagus Festival, an annual celebration of the springtime crop, was canceled Tuesday by its board of directors after a 29-year run. Press file photo
slideshow
The demise of the Stockton Asparagus Festival has shocked countless people in Stockton and throughout San Joaquin County.

Not least of those feeling the angst created by the unanimous decision of the festival’s board of directors to end the annual event after 29 years are two board members with Tracy ties — C.P. Riddle and Marc Marchini.

Riddle, a Tracy resident who had been a board member for 17 years, including serving as board president, said that Tuesday’s decision to close down the festival, was one of the toughest he has been associated with.

“We looked at all of the factors involved and couldn’t find anything that made it possible to continue,” he said. “It wasn’t a hasty decision by any means.”

Two years of declining attendance — amounting to a 50 percent decrease from 2012 — took a toll, Riddle said. This year’s festival was hit by a late April rainstorm that forced closure of the festival on the first day — Friday — and lowered attendance during the weekend even though the weather improved both days.

“After declining attendance in 2013, we needed a bang-up year this time around and didn’t get it,” he said. “We just didn’t have the resources to continue.”

Both Riddle and Marchini said that increasing annual festival costs for city of Stockton services — police, fire and utilities — helped shape the outcome of the decision to disband.

Marchini, a Union Island asparagus grower, said there was lingering hope that some major sponsor would agree to underwrite the festival, but none appeared.

“The state of the asparagus industry in our area, especially with the increasing impact of imports from Mexico, didn’t provide any prospects for growers and shippers to generate increased support,” said Marchini, who, in addition to being a festival board member for 10 years, is chairman of the California Asparagus Commission.

Marchini and Riddle said the asparagus festival was one of the best projectors of a positive image for Stockton, and its demise is a major loss for that city.

Riddle said there could be an upside of the end of the asparagus festival for Tracy, though.

“With the Tracy Bean Festival becoming a Taste of the Valley, deep-fried asparagus could become one of the tastes,” Riddle said. “And who doesn’t like fried asparagus?”

• Contact Sam Matthews at shm@tracypress.com or 830-4234.

 
Comments
(1)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
bouscal
|
July 06, 2014
Another victim of NAFTA and increased criminal activity in Stockton.

Buy local, not from big box retailers like Walmart. Sure it might be a little more expensive up front but long term it's an investment in your own community.


We encourage readers to share online comments in this forum, but please keep them respectful and constructive. This is not a space for personal attacks, libelous statements, profanity or racist slurs. Comments that stray from the topic of the story or are found to contain abusive language are subject to removal at the Press’ discretion, and the writer responsible will be subject to being blocked from making further comments and have their past comments deleted. Readers may report inappropriate comments by e-mailing the editor at tpnews@tracypress.com.