by Sona Sharma
Connoisseur's Marketplace, Menlo Park's big annual street fair along Santa Cruz Avenue, will roll into town this weekend. The festival, now in its 11th year, will spotlight hundreds of vendors from the local arts and food scenes, as well as several musical guests and entertainment for kids.
Running from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, the festival is expected to attract about 30,000 people each day, said Tim Beeman, an event spokesman.
About 200 artists and artisans will sell their wares, including sculpture, ceramics, woodwork, pencil drawings, watercolor, stained glass, dried flowers and other arts and crafts.
Joy Imai of Palo Alto will be there with her famous Raku ceramics. Imai, who works at the Allied Arts Guild, has been in this business for the past 30 years and has participated in the festival for 10 years. She is most known for her glazed Raku flat dishes for flower arrangements. Her pots range from $15 to $40.
The Raku technique was developed in Japan for the pots used in tea ceremonies. The process involves glazing the pot by smoking it with wood shavings. When the pot is heavily smoked, a chemical reaction occurs and the glaze turns a metallic copper color with, at times, iridescent colors.
"Because it is cooling off so fast, the glazes tends to crack around the pot, and the smoke gets in them to make it look very antique," Imai said. "Each pot is different because they are fired one at a time in the kiln and are taken out and smoked in different stages of glaze melt."
Among the other artisans will be Urban Cummings, a staff engineer at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, and his wife, Chris Clark. They will be selling their sheepskin shoes. "Furry Feet," their business since 1978, is run from home, and they sell only to customers they meet through shows like the Menlo Park festival.
"Furry Feet" come in 24 sizes ranging from little baby booties to size 15 for men. They also have wide-width shoes, and their prices range from $12 to $75.
"I should probably retire, but we are having too much fun doing it," Cummings said.
Apart from art and craft booths, about 20 food vendors will hawk a varied menu, including designer sausages, grilled chicken and pork kebobs, knishes, fried calamari, Italian sorbet and other treats.
One of the festival's highlights will be the Gentry Magazine Chef Demonstration, in which 10 local chefs will share their secrets and prepare their favorite recipes. Jesse Cool, owner of Menlo Park's Flea Street Cafe, will preside over the demonstration program, which is free and begins at 11 a.m. each day near Chestnut Street. The chefs will include the Duck Club's Hemant Surendran, Dal Baffo's Vincenzo Lo Grasso, Gibson's Ben Davis and Carpaccio's Oswaldo Ocegueda.
Accompanying the gourmet foods will be several local vintners, including Napa Valley's Barefoot Cellars and Sonoma Creek Winery, which will present their top varietals.
For entertainment there will be a lineup of eight bands, including Big Bang Beat, one of Bay Area's premier dance bands specializing in Motown and 1970s funk. Big Bang Beat will play on Saturday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Fremont Park. Also playing on stage at Fremont Park will be blues guitarist Kenny "Blue" Ray. On another stage, near El Camino Real, will be Inkari, which plays mystical music native to Peru, blues guitarist Daniel Kane and Caribbean drummer Patric Prescod.
Kids can have their own special fun in the Kids Fun Zone near University Avenue. It features a playland, motion simulation theater, train rides, storytelling, balloon artists and face painting. A treasure chest game will be organized by the nearby Menlo Park Presbyterian Church.
What: Connoisseur's Market Place, 11th Annual Menlo Park Festival
Where: Santa Cruz Avenue, Menlo Park
When: July 19-20, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Information: Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce at 325-2818
Note: Santa Cruz Avenue will be closed to traffic from El Camino Real to University Drive at 4 p.m., Friday, July 17. Johnson Street will close at 8 p.m. the same evening. Santa Cruz Avenue will reopen at 10 p.m. Sunday, July 20.
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