Several thousand Morgan Hill residents and visitors gathered downtown last weekend to shop, browse, eat and dance at the 23rd annual Taste of Morgan Hill festival.
Festival organizers from the Chamber of Commerce said they couldn’t put a firm estimate on the number of attendees, but noted that the higher temperatures on Sunday resulted in a sparser crowd than on Saturday, the first day of the two-day annual art and music festival.
All in all, the festival proceeded smoothly with the hard work of countless volunteers and chamber staff, chamber director Rich Firato said.
The chamber was pleased with attendance and quality of a new addition to this year’s Taste of Morgan Hill - the Saturday night concert at the Community and Cultural Center amphitheater. That show featured 16-year-old “The X Factor” contestant Austin Corini, a Gilroy resident and former Morgan Hill resident. Corini opened up for Mike Amaral’s California Beach Boys, who Firato described as “phenomenal.”
Corini serenaded the crowd with rousing versions of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful,” and Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” among others. He signed about 200 autographs after his performance, Firato said.
Crowds were notably larger on Saturday than Sunday at the downtown street festival, Firato said.
Shane Dwight, the closing act on Saturday’s two-stage, all-day lineup of live entertainment, was “a hit,” with patrons on their feet and dancing throughout his set on the Third Street stage.
The festival featured a wide variety of vendors selling arts and crafts, designer clothing, decorations, jewelry, home improvement items and other merchandise, as well as fundraising booths.
Kids’ games and rides, a quilt show, and a classic car show - not to mention an amalgam of fried, grilled and ethnic food - rounded out the festival’s offerings.
Street festival aficionados Kimba and Patti showed off some of the jewelry they purchased Saturday morning from some of the 80 or so vendors in downtown Morgan Hill for the weekend.
“The big decision now is what to eat,” joked Patti just before lunch time, alluding to the food vendors offering a variety of dishes scattered throughout the festival.
The two Gilroy residents, who have been friends for about 15 years and declined to provide their last names, have attended the Taste of Morgan Hill numerous times in previous years.
“One of our favorite things to do is go to art and wine festivals on the weekends,” said Kimba.
They also noted the pleasant weather, with temperatures reaching into the upper-80s with a slight breeze, according to the National Weather Service.
Sunday’s high temperature reached 93, according to the NWS, and Firato said that heat resulted in lighter attendance than Saturday’s crowds.
Some locals attended the festival just to grab a bite or two to eat.
Married couple Frank and Naomi, who declined to provide their last names, walked to the Taste of Morgan Hill from their home. Frank had already eaten a gyro, half of a tri-tip sandwich, and shrimp scampi with rice when he and his wife were looking for dessert.
“We came to support Morgan Hill,” Naomi added.
Also walking to the festival were Dennis and Barbara Palmer, who moved to Morgan Hill last year from Sunnyvale. They went to check out the Taste of Morgan Hill’s annual car show, as the couple are classic car enthusiasts themselves, owning eight restored cars between them.
Barbara, 60, also enjoyed the “nice collection of crafts” available for sale at the vendor booths, and Dennis, 67, planned to stop by a vendor selling residential solar power systems as the couple is considering such an addition to their home.
“It’s nice exercise, a nice day, and a nice mellow festival,” Dennis said.
Retired couple Mike and Bobbie, who were just passing through Morgan Hill in their motor home on their way home to La Mirada, were lured downtown by the classic car show. The car show took place on the southern end of the festival in downtown Morgan Hill, near Monterey Road and Dunne Avenue.
“It looked like a car show at the other end (of the venue) and we found out you have a whole street fair,” said Mike, who was carrying an outdoor pinwheel decoration the couple had purchased.
Some of the vendors used the Taste of Morgan Hill as an opportunity both to sell handmade crafts and raise awareness and funds for charitable causes.
One such example is the “Everyone’s Child” booth, which was hosted by a new local nonprofit that is raising money for a public art project in Morgan Hill that will pay tribute to 2011 murder victim Tara Romero, 14, and encourage peace with a bronze sculpture of the teen.
Volunteers at the booth, including Romero’s mother Annette Nevarez and Lisa Washington, mother of a close friend of Romero’s, were selling jewelry, bumper stickers, wrist bands and other items to raise money and awareness for the project. Washington’s sister, Tanya Welsh, made jewelry for the booth and donated half of the sales to the “Everyone’s Child” project.
“We just want to keep everybody aware of what we’re doing,” Nevarez said.
The car show this year included a special category for 1955, 1956 and 1957 Chevrolets, bringing some first-time competitors to the show from out of town.
Dub Kyle, 75 of Modesto, shows his mint green 1955 Chevrolet as often as he can. He said matter-of-factly that the car, which he rarely drives and transported to Morgan Hill on a trailer, has won “just about every show” he has entered.
Kyle completed the “frame-off” restoration of the car about six years ago. He has two other classic cars - a 1946 Mercury convertible and a 1972 El Camino - but the Chevrolet is his favorite.
“It does everything,” said Kyle, who is retired from his career as the owner of an automobile repair shop. He installed a Corvette engine under the hood, and stainless, “all polished” parts underneath the car.
The car show as a family affair for the Kyles, as Dub’s son Jeff Kyle, of San Martin, showed his red 1959 Corvette at the Taste of Morgan Hill. That car won the “best of show” award in the 2011 contest.
“Dad helped me rebuilt it,” Jeff Kyle said.
The Kyles were joined by friend and fellow Chevrolet enthusiast Mike Castle, 69 of Modesto. It was his first time entering his 1956 Chevrolet, which he has “never” driven, in the annual local car show as well.
He has two other Chevrolets - a 1955 and a 1962.
“It’s from my era,” Castle said.
Morgan Hill police reported only one significant event at the Taste of Morgan Hill. On Sunday, officers had to chase down and arrest a parolee who was intoxicated and accused of theft at the festival, according to Sgt. Troy Hoefling.
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