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Eggplant Festival draws thousands

By: Kim Palaferri, Loomis News Correspondent
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Thousands of people came out for the 24th Annual Eggplant Festival held in downtown Loomis last Saturday. Music from various stages filled the air, including the sound of the band Auto Replay, featuring Del Oro graduate Lowell Hackney as lead vocal and guitar. The Element Brass Band marched the grounds of the festival, playing their jazz/soul/New Orleans funk style as people stopped to dance in the aisles as they passed. Dozens of curious viewers took in cooking demonstrations by local chefs, to learn new recipes on how to cook eggplant. They even got to sample the finished dishes. High Hand Chef Randy Kliewer was on hand teaching people how to make a grilled eggplant with ricotta cheese. A popular food favorite at the festival is the eggplant Parmesan. Vince Duran, of Lincoln, said he makes the trip each year to try some. “Rubino’s makes a wonderful eggplant parmesan, it’s worth traveling for,” Duran said. Arts and crafts to decorate any home were offered by vendors, including handmade eggplant theme decorations. Granite Bay resident Judy Bailey stopped in at Steve Scaduto’s glass booth hoping to find some eggplant beautifications for her home. Scaduto creates hollow glass-blown eggplants in various colors and shapes from which Bailey chose. After tasting the eggplant delight of choice, attendees could take some of the raw ingredients home. High Hand Nursery gave out samples of three types of eggplants for consumers try at home. These were not the usual eggplant seen at local grocery stores, instead, High Hand Nursery representative Chelsea Peterson educated people on other types of eggplant like graffiti, Ichiban and Thai. If something sweet, was desired, festival-goers could munch on purple kettle corn or slurp on bright-colored Hawaiin ices. For adults, Soroptimist International of Loomis Basin served ice-cold beer from local favorite Loomis Basin Brewery and local wineries sold samples of their wines. After enjoying one of the many food offerings, including traditional festival favorites, there were lots of activities to partake in. Kids could learn how to scuba dive during a PADI lessons, bounce around on huge inflatables or go on rides. Hundreds of attendees wore their favorite purple clothes, in the spirit of the day. Grown men wore eggplant hats, young children had eggplants painted on their faces, and suddenly wearing purple was fun again. The crowd seemed to enjoy new experiences with the celebrated eggplant – the nightshade vegetable, and purple sister of the tomato and potato.