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Get ready to celebrate that favorite fall-winter fruit

By: Bridget Jones Journal Staff Writer
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Mandarin fans can participate in the 15th annual Mountain Mandarin Festival being held this weekend at the Gold Country Fairgrounds. The festival will include 13 mandarin growers community members will see immediately upon entering the fairgrounds in front of the Placer building. Spokeswoman Karen Spencer said the mandarin crop is small this year because mandarins are alternate baring fruits that have years of large crops and small crops, but this has not had an effect on the number of growers at the festival. In fact, the festival features about two or three times more growers than it did in its first year. Festival Manager Gary Gilligan said there are many other things to excite mandarin lovers, including a new menu item created especially for the festival. “One of the food booths I’m most excited about (has) mandarin gelato,” Gilligan said. The gelato comes in an 18-inch waffle cone. He said another fun addition to the festival this year is a clown named Mandarin Marmalade. She is the sister of Flo, who is the festival’s regular clown in attendance. “She’s our mandarin princess clown,” Gilligan said. Gilligan said he is also very excited about some of the craft vendors at this year’s festival, including a didgeridoo maker. Festival-goers can enjoy more than 200 vendors, with each food vendor featuring at least one mandarin item. Live entertainment on two stages will also be taking place throughout the weekend. Several events especially for the young mandarin lover will include mandarin decorating, a mandarin peel-and-eat contest, mandarin bowling and mandarin shot-put. The recipe contest is a main event of the festival. The contest takes place on Sunday morning. Magnolia Pitiquen, who was last year’s contest winner in the main dish category and now resides in Florida, said she believes it’s important to celebrate the unique mandarins that come out of Placer County. “Traveling through the U.S., it seems like we have so much of the same thing in every place,” Pitiquen said. “I think Placer County should have its own specialty. I think that’s why we should have the mandarin festival and mandarins promoted.” This is the first year the festival will charge for admission. Spencer said the business association only implemented the fee because it was absolutely necessary. “With the skyrocketing costs we just can’t keep offering a free event and keep the quality of the event,” Spencer said. Money from ticket sales and other proceeds from the festival are all going to good causes, Gilligan said. The festival’s host, Newcastle Area Business Association, uses its part of the proceeds to help fund scholarships for high school seniors. The organization has given out $70,000 in scholarships since the first year of the festival. This year they will be awarding three $1,000 scholarships to local graduates. Proceeds will also benefit the further study of synephrine (a natural element known to reduce cold and allergy symptoms) traces in Placer Country-grown mandarins. The Newcastle Fire Department will also gain some of the proceeds from the festival. “They’re in desperate need of new fire hoses,” Gilligan said. Admission for Friday’s preview day is $1 and discount coupons can also be found on the festival’s Web site. Gilligan said he recommends mandarin lovers come early in the day to buy mandarins, because they will probably sell out quickly due to this year’s smaller crop. “After they get the fruit they can stay around for a Mandarin Madness Cocktail or a mandarin iced tea to refresh themselves,” Gilligan said.