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Time to celebrate citrus at Auburn's Mountain Mandarin Festival

Weekend event promises to be sweet and juicy
By: By Laura Albright, Journal Correspondent
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19th Annual Mountain Mandarin Festival
When: Friday through Sunday, Nov. 16-18
Where: Gold Country Fairgrounds, 1273 High St., Auburn
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
Friday admission: $3 or free with 2 non-perishable food items for the Auburn Food Closet. Saturday/Sunday admission: $7; seniors $5; age 12 and under free
Parking: $5 at Gold Country Fairgrounds. Some street parking available.
Information: (916) 663-1918 or www.mandarinfestival.com

Willow Creek Ranch
Where: Clark Tunnel Road, Penryn
Contact: (916) 663-2820, gpwillow@sbcglobal

The 19th annual Mountain Mandarin Festival is quickly approaching. Don’t miss what the new 2012 crop has to offer on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Gold County Fairgrounds.
In addition to the new crop of delicious, Foothills-grown Mandarin oranges, the festival offers a Mandarin Recipe cooking contest, professional chef demonstrations, food vendors, activities and crafts, contests, live entertainment and a free children’s area.
Placer County growers will have their Mandarins in abundance to sell and sample — not to mention gift baskets.
“While local farms grow mostly Satsuma Mandarins, each farm’s produce tastes a little different. So Mandarin lovers should definitely do a taste test,” said Gordon Poulsen, Willow Creek Ranch grower.
“Sugar tests have demonstrated the highest I’ve seen in a while,” Poulsen said. “And we’re about two-and-a-half weeks ahead of last year per the sugar test.”
Shipping is also available.
“Willow Creek Ranch provides three-day shipping anywhere in the continental United States,” Poulsen said
But the Mandarin fruit isn’t all you will find at the festival. The festival anticipates vendors offering chocolate-covered fresh Mandarins, Mandarin gelato, chicken wings, pizza, pulled pork, or take home Mandarin barbecue sauces, syrups, dressings and dozens of other Mandarin-inspired delicacies.
Visit with over 200 vendors including vendors offering Mandarin-scented lotions, soaps and candles. Start your holiday shopping among artist-crafted jewelry, home accessories and other seasonal gift items.
“While we bring back the favorites and hold on to our traditions, we always strive to keep things new at the festival,” said Karen Spencer. “This year Mutual of Omaha will perform several shows over the three-day festival. They will do demonstrations with both local wild animals and exotic wild animals. Learn about their habitat and how everyone can do their part in keeping these animals safe,” Spencer said. “And people can have their picture taken with the animals.”
“I’ve attended the festival for many years and I’m looking forward to this year. It’s fun for everyone,” Poulsen said. “And I’m looking forward to entering the contest.”
Last year’s Best Mandarins in Placer County winner was Willow Creek Ranch.
“Our acid sugar balance and taste is excellent this year,” Poulsen said. “Our crop is heavier than last year and we starting picking two weeks ago for the farmer’s market.”
While a larger crowd usually turns out when the weather’s fair — rain or shine — the festival expects large numbers.
“We’ve been known to host 35,000 people in good weather,” Spencer said. “But much of our festival is indoors so fair weather or not, there’s much to see and do.”
Proceeds benefit the scholarship fund of the Newcastle Area Business Association and the Newcastle Volunteer Fire Department.