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Palo Alto Weekly

News - September 28, 2012

Friends Harvest Festival offers local fun, treasures

Age-old celebration on Saturday includes antiques, plants, homemade pies and a rummage sale

by Sue Dremann

Palo Alto's Friends 46th Annual Harvest Festival might not be as old as the British pagan festivals or Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights, but like these ancient harvest festivals, this Saturday's event is steeped in the tradition of friendship and sharing the bountiful harvest.

True to the spirit of the harvest fair, the Friends Harvest Festival in Midtown offers locally made homemade jams, chutneys and pies. But there are also plants, used-book and rummage sales, an international crafts table, antiques, storytelling and live music. There is even the Pick-a-Pocket lady, whose frilly white apron contains dozens of pockets filled with treasures for children to pick. New this year: Menlo Park magician Hugh MacDonald.

The Friends Harvest Festival began in the mid 1960s, when Josephine and Frank Duveneck held a fund-raising pancake breakfast at Hidden Villa. Friends in other countries sent packages with small gifts inside to be sold to benefit the Friends Committee on Legislation of California, a nonpartisan Quaker advocacy group working toward California laws that support peace, nonviolence, health care, the environment, compassionate social agendas and abolishing the death penalty.

The festival is now held at the Palo Alto Friends Meetinghouse, 957 Colorado Ave., where as many as 500 people attend each year. Organizers estimate the festival brings in as much as $10,000, which goes to hire a lobbyist in Sacramento.

But the festival is mostly about having a good time, said Marie Simirenko, co-chair for the harvest festival committee. There is face painting and free music all day, live jazz, blues, folk and world music from the Balkans, and a performance by the Raging Grannies, who sing politically inspired ditties.

Tables will be piled high with homemade cookies, cakes, pies and brownies. Handicrafts from El Salvador and other countries are for sale at the International table.

This year's plant sale includes succulent container gardens from Menlo Park-based succulent-garden specialist Danny Meeham, herbs and houseplants. Another section, the Rummage Extravaganza, will have housewares, tools and toys, among other useful items. A separate used-book area offers new discoveries for children, and all books are priced according to their thickness, she said.

Treasure hunters can also expect to find some unusual glassware, jewelry, art, photographs and crystal at the Attic Treasures section, Simirenko said.

"Over the years now more of our members have been finding things in their attics. They are the things that our older members have inherited and held onto all of their lives," she said. "It's just a fun time to get together."

What: A Day of Fun Family Activities at 46th Annual Harvest Festival

When: Saturday, Sept. 29, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Palo Alto Friends Meetinghouse, 957 Colorado Ave. (between Louis and Greer roads), Palo Alto

Cost: Free admission, entertainment and parking

Information: or

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at