Behind the scenes of Fallbrook’s “big show” – what it takes to produce the Avocado Festival, coming Sunday, April 13

Throwing a special event with a guest list of 70,000 is not an easy task. Fallbrook’s signature annual event, the Avocado Festival, takes a full year of planning and collaboration on behalf of the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce to produce.

“It’s a team effort,” said chamber CEO Lila MacDonald. “We have two co-chairs this year, George Archibald (one of the original founders) and Gary Shimer, in addition to a committee of over 25 people to help with all aspects of festival planning. Also, even more volunteers help with sub-committees and those can contain an additional two to 25 people per subcommittee.”

This year’s festival takes place Sun., April 13, and planning for it began at last year’s event.

“On the day of the festival, we give each vendor a ‘speedy renewal’ form which allows them to sign up for the next year and receive a discount,” said MacDonald. “About 50 percent take advantage of this, which means we are already half-full for the next year.”

Logistical plans and needed supplies are many when it comes to the big event.

“We have to plan for street closures, barricades, generators, power cords, canopies, getting vendors unloaded and loaded into their spots, shuttles, trash cans, chemical toilets, tables, chairs, and much more,” explained MacDonald. Organizations and agencies like the Fallbrook Amateur Radio Club, Sheriff’s Dept. and it’s Senior Volunteer Patrol, CHP, North County Fire, and more provide a vital communication system the day of the event and coordinate appropriate response for any emergencies.

“They keep quick, clear pathways to emergency services such as the hospital; we all work hard, together, to bring the safest environment we can to the festival,” said MacDonald. “Law enforcement agencies are involved from the beginning in every aspect from logistics… street closures, safety the day of, overall safety, keeping pedestrian traffic flowing, and disturbances down.” The chamber is required to secure several permits to hold the event since it also features food and alcohol for sale.

Specialty contests are a popular part of the annual Avocado Festival, and those also are volunteer-driven.

“Sue Shimer has handled the Guacamole Contest for years and Gordon Stone has handled the AVO 500 contest for kids for many years,” said MacDonald. “Helen Archibald oversees the Best Dressed Avocado Contest and Christiana Monarez is coordinating the Little Miss and Mister Avocado contest this year. Cory Carrier provides the sound and coordination for all the events that take place at the Community Stage during the festival.”

Anita Kimzey coordinates the annual Art of the Avocado contest. Fallbrook Propane is the major sponsor that makes the competition possible. Judging of entries already took place April 5 and the artwork will be on exhibit the day of the festival at Brandon Gallery, 105 N. Main Ave.

According to MacDonald, the easiest aspect of organizing the festival is getting together the committee members.

“Everyone really takes their piece of the puzzle and does an amazing job,” she said. The biggest challenge, she explained, used to be getting vendors loaded in and out of their assigned booths. However, since a company has been used for vendor coordination the past few years, that challenge has lessened.

“Kennedy & Associates is a real asset and handles this with great expertise,” she said.

April 13 will be extremely busy in Fallbrook, unlike other Sundays throughout the year. Impact is felt throughout the downtown area and MacDonald said the chamber is grateful that many entities are so helpful on the day of the event, especially when it comes to parking.

“Parking is always a concern,” she said. “We are allowed to use the parking lots of Fallbrook High School, Fallbrook Union Elementary School District, Major Market, and Northgate Market. We have two shuttles that we hire to bring people from the high school and Frazier Elementary, the Fallbrook Historical Society, and Fallbrook Senior Center in order to ease congestion downtown.”

“Many businesses (that aren’t usually open on Sunday) stay open for the event,” said MacDonald. “Some offer festival specials.”

Despite the enormous amount of work involved, member/volunteers of the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce are committed to ensuring the event’s success, given it’s importance. In recent years, the event has generated over $1 million each year in sales, they said.

“The festival was started 28 years ago to bring business to town; with the idea that if you bring people to town, they will shop or come back to shop after seeing what our town has to offer,” said MacDonald. “Another important factor is that the proceeds from hosting the Avocado Festival fund other events in town, like the Christmas Parade. Those events wouldn’t happen if we didn’t have this event.”

5 Responses to "Behind the scenes of Fallbrook’s “big show” – what it takes to produce the Avocado Festival, coming Sunday, April 13"

  1. Former Fallbrookian   April 10, 2014 at 6:56 am

    I love the Avo Fest!! I appreciate all the hard work it takes to put on an event of this size. Thank You to all who come together to make this event such an awesome day for family and friends to enjoy. Thank you

    Reply
  2. RetroRick   April 10, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    It’s the best thing to happen in Fallbrook all year. Thanks to all those involved in making it happen. We just need another like it in October!

    Reply
  3. DR DR   April 11, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    After we run tomorrow AM – then go to the Festival Sun AM., I hope we find out how the shut-ins fared and the lives went smooth, normal and no law suits for Pete’s sake.

    This is a really FUN weekend in Fallbrook, the Avocado Capital of the World. (I’m sure Mexico has surpassed us by now).

    Reply
  4. Avo Fest   April 11, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    I am hoping the festival has changed over the years. Most of the people I know stopped going years ago. The majority of the booth venders were selling satellite tv, cable tv, solar, insurance, old fashioned homemade trinkets, etc., and none of it had anything to do with avocados. I expected avocado dip, avocado ice cream, fried avocados, avocado soup, avocado soap, avocado paintings/trinkets, but none of that was present. We went one year and found ONE vendor with avocado dip (they were selling their brand of chip), but that was the only avocado related booth we found. I will probably go this year to see if things have changed…..keeping my fingers crossed for you Fallbrook.

    Reply
  5. JAS   April 12, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    The Avocado Festival has vastly improved over the last several years. I go to buy incense, garden stuff, catch up on the land conservancy, see the arts, visit with Fallbrook vendors, shop in the stores… It is what you make it. I choose to make it a fun day to be out doors.

    Reply

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