Mandarin mania found at foothill festival

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The 18th annual Mountain Mandarin Festival, to be held Nov. 18 to 20 at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn – is preparing for upwards of 30,000 visitors. When autumn days in the foothills are warm and the nights are cold, Mandarin orange growers anxiously await the first blush of color on their fruit. Just before Thanksgiving, long hours are spent hand-snipping each stem to bring in the first crop of the season for the Mountain Mandarin Festival. Placer County Mandarin orange growers will bring thousands of familiar 10-pound, orange-mesh bags of the fruit ready for travel home to friends and family. At their stands throughout the fairgrounds, local growers will offer fresh fruit, gift baskets, and a variety of fruit to taste. There will also be fresh oranges that are chocolate dipped, locally produced mandarin syrups, marinades and salad dressings, fresh mandarin milkshakes, and gift packages available for holiday shipping. All of the festival food vendors will be offering at least one Mandarin orange item on their menu. The Mandarin orange will be an ingredient in Mandarin BBQ pulled pork, Mandarin orange gelato, Mandarin-glazed chicken wings, authentic New Orleans beignets with Mandarin marmalade, Mandarin-glazed kettle corn, almonds, pistachios, and more. Last year’s favorites included the fresh chocolate dipped Mandarins, fresh-baked giant pretzels with a cream-cheese Mandarin dip, and Mandarin fudge. Creative concoctions will include Mandarin adult beverages and Mandarin coffee drinks. More than 200 vendors will have artist-crafted gift items, jewelry, home accessories, and food products available for visitors as the outdoor exhibits and entertainment areas expand. Everything from holiday gift and food items to home décor to sensory pleasures from Mandarin scented candles, soaps and spa products will be available. Even with inclement weather, there will be plenty of indoor shopping. The annual Kitchen Craft Recipe Contest is a favorite of festival attendees and the festival is looking for favorite recipe that incorporates mandarin oranges. The grand prize for the recipe contest this year is a set of Kitchen Craft cookware, valued at over $1,900. There will also be cash prizes for the top recipes in each category. Visit for details and an entry form. Pick up the Mountain Mandarin Festival cookbook and the most recent booklet of 2010 recipe contest entries. This three-ring binder cookbook contains the best of all the recipes collected over the past 12 years from recipe contests, trained chefs, cooking demonstrations, and local Mandarin growers. Packets of new 2011 recipes will be available to add to your cookbook. The book, including the new packet, will be on sale during the Festival for $10; new recipe packets are $3. Enjoy a great selection of live entertainment on three stages including NPR entertainer Sebastian Sidi’s Smokin’ Hot Piano. Catch Mandarin Rose and Sadie the Balloon Lady strolling around. On the SaveMart Cooking Stage in the Armory Building, learn tricks of the trade as professional chefs demonstrate, and samples from vendors are presented. Kids of all ages will enjoy the interactive activities created by Mandarin Rose and Kids Town America. The Kids Grove will be a chance for kids to take a break who are tired of following the grown-ups around while they shop. For the best way to enjoy a day of shopping, taking in the entertainment and feasting, hop aboard the train for a guided tour of the Festival pointing out where things are, interesting vendors, activities and food. Hop off and on at designated buildings. Since the Gold Country Fairgrounds sits in a hollow with parking areas a long walk up the hill, the festival has arranged for transportation services to cars. Purchase bulk mandarins early in the day, drop them at the Newcastle Boy Scouts delivery booth, and when ready, Scouts will take purchases to the parking lot. Proceeds from the Mountain Mandarin Festival benefit three scholarships funds, the Newcastle Fire Department, the Golden Spike Lions Club, and the Newcastle Elementary PTC. – Staff report