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When the California State Fair Gala happens, you know the California State Fair is right around the corner! The Gala is the kick-off event for the California State Fair and is coming up on June 22nd. All of the competitions have been completed and judged, scholarships winners have been picked and the Agriculturalist of the year has been announced. Now, it’s time to celebrate the BEST wine, olive oil, cheese and beer!

I was first introduced to the California State Fair Gala in 2007, when I was on the planning committee and the last time I went to the Gala was about seven years ago. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go, but I had work conflicts. Now, there’s no excuse since I work for the California State Fair. By the way, this is Darla Givens.

a large crowd of people all sitting at round dining tables at the California State Fair Gala in 2016

California State Fair Gala 2016

The Gala is a unique event for a number of reasons. It begins with the pre-gala tasting. This is where you can sample award-winning wines, cheese, beer and olive oils all in one place. (You don’t have to feel guilty…olive oil is a “healthy” fat). And did you know that California now has the third largest craft brew competition in the country? With 1,488 beers, the California State Fair set a new record for the number of entries for the Commercial Beer Competition this year. Once again, this is just the pre-tasting! There is a full-blown, gourmet, farm-to-fork sit-down dinner prepared by Executive Chef Andrew Guerere and Executive Sous Chef Ryan Kagimoto and the rest of the Spectra team.

Eight buffet stations will be set-up around the banquet room. You will enjoy fresh, local heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella cheese topped with basil infused oil. Also on the menu: Sinclair Family Farms herb crusted beef tenderloin served with chimichurri; a spinach and chanterelle stuffed pork loin served with a dijon champagne sauce. There is also something for vegetarians: Sampino’s fresh tortellini sauteed in brown butter with sage topped with parmigiano reggiano and truffles. Is your mouth watering yet? You can try a little or a lot of each of deliciously crafted entrees. There will be an assortment of desserts on the table…you might want to start with that!

The Gala also celebrates what is great about California agriculture: the people the places, the technology and everything that goes into bringing food to our tables every day. The agriculture industry is deep in our state. You can meet the generations of agriculture enthusiasts that keep the traditions alive:
Agriculturalist of the Year, Tom Nassif
Agriculture Progress Award, Chris Zanobini (Chris helped start the State Fair Farm Scholarship program.)
Bryan M. Sastokas, Champion of Technology for an Individual
Aira, Champion of Technology for an Organization
The Golden Bear Winner, Pete Leesha
Vineyard of the Year, Dutton Ranch Home Vineyard
Paul Draper receives the Wine Lifetime Achievement Award

Even though the California State Fair Gala is an evening to enjoy great food and great company, it’s the major fundraiser for The Friends of the California State Fair Student Scholarship Program.  This year, the program will give $50,000 in scholarships to high-academic achievers that have an interest in agriculture. These young people are amazingly smart and gifted. They are well-rounded citizens that have achieved a lot in their short lives. They are looking forward to contributing to the agriculture industry.

What fun would a Gala be without a fast-paced, exhilarating LIVE auction? Watch Bid paddles fly up faster than popcorn at the California State Fair! California native and third-generation auctioneer, Jake Parnell returns to energize the audience to bid high and bid often! Jake was born and raised on a small Angus Cattle and Clydesdale Horse Ranch in Auburn. He was involved in FFA. Jake knows the importance of the scholarships. Jake will also be the auctioneer at the Sale of Champions presented by Tractor Supply Company during the California State Fair on Sunday, July 16, 2017.

an image of Rob on the Road

KVIE’s Rob Stewart from “Rob on the Road” is the masters of ceremony. He is such a cool guy. Rob is funny and engaging. He will keep things interesting throughout the evening and keep the night flowing smoothly.

So let’s recap now: you get the best eats and drinks, award-winning in fact; you are around some of the best people in agriculture; and you can contribute to a good cause. This sounds like a night you don’t want to miss! So ditch the kids, dress to the nines, and make it an night out on the town!

We look forward to seeing you at this year’s California State Fair Gala which is on Thursday, June 22, 2017 at Cal Expo at 6 p.m. Seating is limited so get your tickets now! Click here for more information and to purchase your ticket. The Gala is just one of the many experiences you will have that connects you to the 2017 California State Fair.