Crowds Squeeze in to California Lemon Festival to Celebrate Zest of Honor

By Brooke Holland

Lemon-inspired foods, drinks and family-fun activities took over Goleta’s Girsh Park on Saturday as thousands of people paid tribute to the yellow citrus fruit at the 26th annual California Lemon Festival.

Maxwell O’Keiff serves up lemonade shaved ice at the Kona Ice booth at the California Lemon Festival. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

The two-day festival, put on by the Goleta Chamber of Commerce, celebrates the community’s heritage as a leading lemon-growing region during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

An estimated 40,000 people are expected to attend the fee-free weekend festival.

“This is our year of celebrating traditions,” said Kristen Miller, president and CEO of the Goleta chamber. “The festival is fabulous so far, and we have more people here than last year. The weather is perfect.”

Visitors lined up for fresh-squeezed lemonade and tangy pastries, and visitors 21-and-over sipped lemon-flavored beer made by Hollister Brewing Company at the outdoor “Lemon Lounge.”

This year’s festival included 800 zesty lemon merengue pies and an estimated 600 mouthwatering lemon bars prepared by Anna’s Marketplace Bakery.

Tammy Dobrotin, the festival’s co-chairwoman of the pie booth, suggested guests come early on Sunday if they want to purchase the sweet treats.

“They are going fast, and we are going to run out,” she said. “They are excellent. The festival is a time to honor traditions, and people come for the lemon bars and pies.”

Goleta police officers show off their sweet rides at the California Lemon Festival. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

The event also included a lemon pie-eating contest, local vendor booths, and police and other first-responders displaying an array of emergency vehicles adjacent to the festival grounds.

Among the children’s activities were rock climbing, carnival rides, miniature golf and bounce houses in the Kids Zone.

Local dancers took to the festival’s stage, and music groups filled the air with live entertainment throughout the day.

Saturday’s attendees received an additional viewing activity as the 12th annual Goleta Fall Classic Car & Street Rod Show lined the lawn nearby.

The festival continues 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at Girsh Park, 7050 Phelps Road, behind The Home Depot at Camino Real Marketplace.

The crowd favorite pie-eating contest will take place at 12:15 p.m. Sunday.​​

— Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at