Four distinct bridges provide the only entrance to Alameda. For those who aren’t familiar, Alameda is a small island in the bay, a stone’s throw from Oakland. Aside from the main drag, which spans a few modest blocks, the town is mainly suburbia and apparently has the most elementary schools per capita in the entire U.S. (don’t quote me on that, it was an observation). For the most part, Alameda is a sleepy town, to raise your kids, to retire, to slow down from the stress of city life.
This past weekend was the 2018 Alameda Art & Wine Festival! I’ve been to a handful of Art & Wine fests in The Bay, and let me tell you, Alameda is one of my favorites. Why? Art & Wine festivals in South Bay don’t come close to the quantity of vendors in Alameda. Don’t get me wrong, South Bay hosts a number of festivals I enjoy to no end, but the Art & Wine ones aren’t lit like Alameda.
Alameda closes a good 5 or so blocks downtown to host the event. Every other block has a mini stage with cover bands or other live music. Not only do they have a plethora of vendors, but I praise the quality and diversity of the arts. The streets are lined with pop up tents, each small business owner with a different vibe, a creative set-up, a unique niche. We sip wine and wander through booths with painted wood portraits and matted prints, sift through racks of tye dye shirts and spandex pants that flare out at the bottoms,laugh at ourselves in the mirror as we try on masks. There are booths selling honey, hand crafted jewelry, crystals, wind chimes, toe rings, knives, corn nuts, dip mixes, bonsais, gourmet vinegar and olive oil.
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of kombucha. I’m not even sure I can tell you what it is. I think it has probiotics (I’m not really sure what those are either) but people say they’re good for you. I drink Kombucha occasionally and I know on the bottle it warns of 1-2% alcohol content; yet, at the art & wine festival, we taste-test alcoholic kombucha ranging from 5-7% with the purpose of getting drunk (!) in flavors like pomegranate chai, ginger lime, and lemongrass. Another booth we pass checks our IDs and hands us shots of alcoholic coconut water (Skyjuice is a new company selling canned cocktails of flavored coconut water and vodka). I’m not sure where this get-drunk-on-“health-foods” thing came from, but I’m all for it. This must be my generation finding harmonious balance. Other generations love to hate millennials but you have to admit this is kind of genius…
There is a vendor selling “Hawaiian Ecosystems,” which are small bowls or vases filled with water and a flower. If you look closely, you can see the tiny shrimp that apparently live in these habitats without having to be fed. My friends and I spend a little longer at a booth selling taxidermy butterflies, some in quite elaborate patterns for display on a wall; sale price: $2500. We take our time picking out this butterfly for my sister.
One of my favorite aspects of art & wine festivals is the food! Among steaming grills coated with chicken skewers and bacon wrapped sausages, there are kettle corn stands, chocolate dipped ice cream booths, and a deep dish or thin crust pizza tent. Vendors sell gyros, roasted corn, mango sticks and curly fries. I buy lumpia (philipino egg rolls) to snack on as we stand in line for the main seafood vendor. Ironically, my friends and I order the same thing as last year; two lobster sliders each and an order of BBQ oysters, that come with three shells to split between us evenly. Delicious, as usual. All I can say about that is we are truly creature of habit.
Are there any art & wine festivals coming up near you?