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Food Trucks at Los Gatos Fiesta de Artes Irk Local Restaurants

Organizers say food offering responds to latest trend in how people eat at festivals; cite competition with 'A Taste of Los Gatos' event for local restaurant food donations.

Complaints about the food sold in years past during prompted organizers to bring in popular gourmet food-truck vendors this year to the two-day festival that wrapped up Sunday afternoon.

However, the move has irked some downtown restaurant owners, who felt slighted by the , the organization that has sponsored the food, wine and art festival on the Civic Center grounds for the past 16 years.

Due to the , which worked with some local restaurants to provide food to fundraise for the organization, Kiwanians were free this year to select some of Moveable Feast's vendors to feed the estimated 20,000 that attended the festival, explained Terry Martin, chairman of this year's Fiesta de Artes.

"We had some food issues for the past few years, but now we offered a bigger variety and it's more in keeping with what's going on in the world right now," Martin said about the growing popularity of mobile food vendors.

A total of eight food truck vendors, four each day, and one hot dog operator were allowed at this year's fiesta, the 16th organized by the local Kiwanians and the 41st one held in town. The fiesta also featured a caramel corn, snow cone, an ice bar, and drinks, which included sangria, wine and beer, Martin said.

"The local restaurant community was completely shut out of this event this year," who noted that allowing the "non-local" food-truck vendors "was the easy answer to eliminate the Health Department's regulations for events like this.

"So not only did you take away that exposure for them, you also brought outside food vendors in to compete for business that day that do not support our town in any way. They don't pay taxes, they don't pay the town for a business license, they don't contribute sales tax dollars, they don't support local schools, local arts, local anything," the restaurant operator noted.

Martin said because the solicits local restaurants' donations for its fundraising event coming up in September, it's created a disadvantage for the Fiesta to solicit the local restaurants.

"During the last three years we've seen a decline each year in the quality and quantity of food that we could get because it was going to this other event," Martin said. "Last year we had four different kinds of muffins and breads, five different kinds of Asian chicken salads and two different kinds of pastas ... that's not festival food. We had to make a change."

Despite the food controversy, Martin said about 250 volunteers worked hard to put together the event, which helps the Kiwanis Club of Los Gatos raise between $40,000 and $45,000 for its Turnaround Scholarships Program, maintenance of bike trails and aiding seniors.

The Kiwanians just finished refurbishing a flagpole at Oak Meadow Park and donated $25,000 to the

The Fiesta grosses about $100,000, but about half pays for festival expenses such as fencing, restrooms, uses of buildings, security and other costs, Martin said.

In honor of the late community leader Paul Dubois, who died , the Fiesta repeated the exact same musical band lineup as it did last year and which Dubois picked. His wife, Mary Tomasi-Dubois, was present during both days of the event and was pleased with the tribute.

A picture of Dubois hung near the Fiesta's band stage along with the hat and colorful Hawaiian shirt he wore to the festivities each year. This year, Los Gatos Community Foundation Executive Director Sharon Childs helped bring back her dance partner's bands from last year. Childs and Paul Dubois were said to always be dancing in front of the Fiesta's stage to get the crowd moving, Martin added.

"We thank the Town of Los Gatos for allowing us to have this event," Martin said. "The citizens of Los Gatos need to also be thanked for coming out and participating year after year."

The Fiesta attracts townsfolk but also many South Bay residents since the Kiwanians advertise in San Jose, Los Altos and Mountain View.

Attendance, which is said to be between 8,000 and 10,000 people a day, has remained the same for the past three years, Martin said, who joined the Los Gatos Kiwanis Club in 1995.

Together with , Martin has either chaired or co-chaired the event for the past 10 years, he said. Before that, Rich Lang, who moved near Sacramento, rescued the Fiesta after the town's original Chamber of Commerce went out of business and abandoned the event.

"Terry has carried the ball this year on his back. He's carried the whole thing. It's just been a beautiful thing because of Terry. We appreciate his leadership so much," said Los Gatos Kiwanian Bill Harvey.

Martin, who's an architect in Los Gatos, said he's lived or worked in Los Gatos for the past 42 years.

The hot weekend temperatures hurt Saturday's attendance a little, according to Terry Allie, coordinator of the arts and crafts at the Fiesta and the organizer of about 10 shows every year for California Artists. 

New photographers and painters came out this year to participate in the Fiesta and quite a few different versions of art were presented such a mosaics with one artist making tables out of them.

"This is what real community is all about," said Los Gatos Council member Joe Pirzynski, who was dancing to the beat of popular songs played by the town's own rock band The Houserockers.

Larry Arzie August 14, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Jeffrey, Your right, I am a bit biased in wanting to keep Los Gatos a small town and a place we all want to support. There is nothing wrong with having a quality event so that everyone can enjoy . I don't mind sticking my neck out either if change is the outcome, making more money for the Kiwanis and pride from all quarters.
Don Wolf August 15, 2012 at 12:14 AM
I think this has been a good discussion and Kiwanis will take all the suggestions seriously in our planning for next year's event. I am proud to be a Kiwanian and for my part in the event. The Fiesta is one of the places we volunteer our time to our community. We are proud to be able to put on such a large and complex event once a year with over a hundred VOLUNTEERS. We invite any like-minded persons to volunteer to work in the event. All he profits go towards making Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Saratoga better communities to raise our children. We have fun doing service for the community, I invite anyone who enjoys serving the community can join the fun by coming to our open luncheon meetings on Thursdays at noon at the Los Gatos Lodge. You may even want to become one of us after getting to know us and the work we do!
Dyan Chan August 16, 2012 at 06:08 AM
I did not realize that proceeds from the Fiesta de Artes supported the Kiwanis Turnaround Scholarships, which help kids who have overcome intense personal challenges go to college or trade school. Thank you to the Kiwanis for organizing this huge event to raise money to help disadvantaged youth!
James George August 16, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Perhaps the Kiwanis needed to let the restaurants know of the communities desire for a broader range of foods or they would have to get different sources from outside of Los Gatos.
Don Wolf August 16, 2012 at 09:21 PM
The food that was donated by the restaurants was great. It was the dispensing of the food, the availability of the food. The problem was not the restaurants' fault. The problem was the three way management of the operation that did not work. As I said before, everybody's intentions were great, but that was not enough to make it a success. As you may have noticed from this discussion, some critics are relentless even though the way over 100 volunteers worked their butt off to serve our community. If the critics pitched in and helped, maybe we could reach the perfection the desire.

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