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It's Mountain Mandarin Festival time

By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal staff writer
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Placer County loves its mandarins. Anyone who cherishes Placer’s petite pieces of citrus might consider heading over to the Gold Country Fairgrounds, home to this weekend’s 16th annual Mountain Mandarin Festival. Why mandarins? “They are sweet, easy to peel and kids love them, and if kids love them, moms love them and dads love them,” said Greg Lewis of Newcastle’s Sunset Ridge Mandarins. The festival celebrates the new crop of locally grown mandarins with plenty of fanfare including a recipe contest, pageant, music, food, chef demonstrations, a kaleidoscope collection, more than 200 vendors, kids’ activities and mountains of fresh mandarins for sale. Sunset Ridge is just one of the growers selling mandarins at the festival. Lewis said visitors have two options at his booth — a five-pound box for $8 or a 10-pound bag for $13. Lewis said the Mountain Mandarin Festival promises to be great family friendly fun. “You’ll get a feel for what Placer County agriculture is about,” he said. Karen Spencer, festival spokeswoman, said the beauty of the Mountain Mandarin Festival to is two fold. “It’s a wonderful way for growers to get their products to the marketplace,” she said. “For the people attending the festival, it’s an opportunity to taste and compare all the different kinds.” Think you know your way around a mandarin? There’s still time to enter the Mountain Mandarin Festival Recipe Contest, which will be judged Sunday. The recipes are categorized into three groups — dessert, main dish and side dish — and participants can submit recipes and prepared dishes up until 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Judging commences around 11:15 a.m. Sunday on the SaveMart Cooking Stage in the Armory Building. “We have a nice panel of five judges who can’t wait to taste everything,” Spencer said. New to this year’s festival is a Miss Mandarin Pageant, which begins at 2 p.m. Saturday. Miss Mandarin Pageant age groups include Mini (4-6), Young (7-10) and Junior (11-14). Winners receive scholarships, and all participants receive awards. “We’d love to have a little Miss Mandarin walking around and representing us,” Spencer said. Also new to the festival this year is a wine garden featuring a dozen Placer County wineries. The wine garden is a joint effort between PlacerGROWN, wine growers and festival organizers and will offer a variety of local wines for $1 per taste or $5 per glass during festival hours. Wine garden proceeds benefit Placer County winery marketing programs and the Newcastle Area Business Association. See placerhillswinetour.com for information on participating wineries.