Piedmont Harvest Festival delights despite pandemic

Homegrown edibles

A global health emergency and a local shelter order weren’t about to keep residents from proudly displaying the bounty of their gardens as summer came to a close.

The proof is in the dozens of glamor shots of prize produce and plants, artfully made baked goods and home-canned jars of jam and preserves entered in the photo contest held for the first-ever virtual version of the Harvest Festival.

“I thought it was very successful,” said Susan Hill, who chaired the edibles portion of the event. “For being organized during a pandemic it’s been incredibly positive.”

Hill came up with the idea of a virtual festival after the live event was cancelled by the city, which said it made the decision in the interest of public safety. “Because of the nature of the Harvest Festival, social distancing measures would not be possible to achieve, let alone enforce, during this event,” the city said in an announcement. “Rather than let the proverbial fields lay fallow for the year, the Harvest Festival will be a virtual event.”

Maria-Elena Diaz shows off her tomatoes
The DeYoung family shows off cupcakes and “top ramen cup-o-noodles”

There was no way to replicate the in-person experience of carnival games, live music, food trucks and other activities, but the virtual festival put the entire focus on the garden harvest and residents enthusiastically displayed the fruits (and vegetables) of their efforts. 

“We had 39 people enter 93 photos, said Chelle Putzer city recreation and community services director. “It was really wonderful to see how excited people were to share photos of what they have been growing in their gardens and making in their kitchens while sheltering in place.”

All entrants will be given a ribbon and be entered into a drawing for a $60 certificate from ACE Garden Center. The photo submissions can be seen online at www.piedmont.ca.gov/harvestfestival

“I thought the edible portion worked really well being virtual,” Hill said. “Having it be virtual, people could take photos of that perfect tomato, that perfect cucumber.” She noted the pride of people “beaming over homegrown produce.”

With much of the city’s population under confinement at home, gardening has become a more popular pastime. “Of course, with the pandemic and stay-at-home there were a lot more people growing edibles,” Hill said. “The nurseries were swept clean of plant starts.”

She noted that “The festival started 22 years ago to promote positive recreation and the pandemic really brought that home. During the pandemic people were just enjoying where they are while sheltering.”
Other upsides, in addition to the sustainability aspect of bringing grown goods directly from the garden to the kitchen, are reductions in the carbon footprint and pesticide use.

There were three entries in the Youth Coloring/Drawing/Collage Contest and those will be entered in an Oct. 5 drawing for a gift certificate from Village Market.

Even with the success of the virtual celebration, organizers are looking forward to the return of the live event at Piedmont Park, not only to see the edibles in-person, but also for the social aspects, the variety of food and activities, the community outreach and the displays of scarecrows and art during some of the best weather of the year. “It’s so fun to see people, to see kids having a good time,” Hill said. “It’s a very positive outdoor event.”

All photos from the City website Virtual Harvest Festival page.

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