The following is a guest post by Jennifer Squires. Jennifer is a writer who works with Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks. She lives in Aptos.
The Mole & Mariachi Festival, one of the more unique events amid the cornucopia of Santa Cruz food festivals, livens up downtown Santa Cruz this weekend with live music, local food and a full schedule of family-friendly activities.
Hosted by Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks at the Santa Cruz Mission Adobe State Historic Park, the second-annual Mole & Mariachi Festival highlights Santa Cruz’s cultural heritage in colorful, engaging ways: dancing, mariachi music, creative local foods and lots of kids’ activities. And it’s free.
Friends started the festival last year to celebrate after the nonprofit saved the park from closure in 2012 and began supporting the maintenance and operation costs at the Mission. Those interested in the history of Mission Santa Cruz can take a tour during the Mole & Mariachi Festival.
The festival runs 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20 at Santa Cruz Mission Adobe State Historic Park, 144 School St. in Santa Cruz. Here’s a guide to get the most out of the festival:
Park downtown and take the trolley. The iconic Santa Cruz Trolley will be picking up festival-goers every 12 minutes from the two downtown trolley stops (in front of Del Mar Theatre, 1124 Pacific Ave., and at the Locust Street Garage, on Locust Street, just off Pacific Avenue) for a free ride to the festival.
Alternatively, ride your bike and use the free bike valet at the festival, provided by People Power.
Entry to the Mole & Mariachi Festival is free. To experience the delicious mole, a traditional Mexican sauce sometimes made with chocolate, purchase a $10 tasting kit as you walk into the event.
Nine competitors will prepare mole to vie for People’s Choice and Judges’ Choice awards. And with ingredients such as nopales (cactus paddles), peanuts, poblano peppers and pumpkin seeds, this is not your mother’s mole. Well, except for one chef who actually is preparing “My Mom’s Mole,” a 25-ingredient Guanajuato-style sauce that is spicy, not sweet. Experience subtle regional differences by also tasting an Oaxacan-style or Michoacán-style mole.
Festival-goers who sample the mole can vote for their favorite in the People’s Choice award category.
The performances begin as soon as the festival gates open. Estrellas de Esperanza, a youth folklorico dance troupe from Watsonville, will take stage. Mariachi Gilroy will play twice, including one show where the band is accompanied by brightly festooned, giant wiggling and dancing puppets called Mojigangas. Mariachi Sonora also will perform.
Let the Kids Loose
Kids can play all afternoon at the Mole & Mariachi Festival. There will be traditional tortilla making and rope tricks to try, as well as crafts and face painting. At 2:30 p.m., kids will break into two age groups to whack piñatas filled with treats. Also, the whole family can go on a tour of the Adobe building, presented in both English and Spanish.
Anyone still hungry after all of those mole samples can hit the food booths, where fish tacos, churros, mole truffles, sopes — fried masa topped with vegetables and meat — and other treats that will be available for. Beer from Discretion Brewing and Lagunitas Brewing Company, wine from Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards and chavelas, a drink made of beer and tomato juice, also will be sold.
Enjoy the Mission
When you’re ready to slow down, peruse the artists showcase, learn about Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks at the pop-up ParkStore, pick up tickets for the ongoing raffle or just take a seat under the redwood trees to enjoy the view of downtown Santa Cruz.
Find more information about the Mole & Mariachi Festival online: http://www.thatsmypark.org/projects/santa-cruz-mission/mole-and-mariachi-festival/