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Bumper crop for Mandarin Fest

Citrus peaking as Auburn event draws mandarin lovers
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The mountain air was fresh today. The crowds were huge, bolstered by local kids given a day off from school because of potential smoky skies. And the mandarins were perfect.

The Mountain Mandarin Festival was off to a bountiful start and will continue through Sunday, attracting hordes of mandarin lovers who get their pick of bags of the Placer County foothills specialty from 17 growers.

By the time the festival draws to a close at 4 p.m. Sunday, organizers expect a crowd that could top last year’s 25,000.

And growers will have plenty of mandarins for sale during a picking season that some are saying has been about as perfect as anyone could expect.

Barbara Lewis of Newcastle’s Magnolia Hill Orchard said all growers are reporting huge crops.

“It’s been a great year, with a big blossom in April and May starting things off,” Lewis said.

The 1,400 mandarin trees at Newcastle’s Westview Growers were dependable producers this season. Westview’s Wade Foley said the sweetness and color of the fruit has been hitting perfection just as the mandarin festival takes place.

“It’s right on cue,” Foley said.

While the festival growers provide free samples and sell bags of mandarins, the fairgrounds is also filled with mandarin cooking demonstrations, mandarin products like mandarin grilled cheese, mandarin pizza and mandarin funnel cake, and mandarin-infused alcohol offerings Entertainment — including Karen Quest Cowgirl Tricks and the Thrive Drummers — are also attractions.

The festival runs until 5 p.m. today, 9-5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, with $8 regular admission, $5 for seniors, and children 12 and under free. Gold Country Fairgrounds parking is $6.

More information is available at mandarinfestival.com.