6 fall food festivals to usher in the new season around Sacramento

We have an orange crush on the Mountain Mandarin Festival, which boasts everything from mandarin pistachios to mandarin pizzas.

Don’t let the warm temperatures fool you: Fall is here, as marked by a rich array of regional food festivals, gatherings and other happenings heralding the new season. Get out your calendars and hit the road to enjoy these farm-to-fork highlights.

Loomis Eggplant Festival (Oct. 4)
With featured dishes ranging from eggplant tacos, kabobs and burgers to eggplant parmesan and fried eggplant, purple reigns at this 27th annual Loomis festival celebrating the region’s agricultural heritage. Local chefs will demonstrate various ways to prepare the aubergine vegetable. Or, if you think you’ve got purple produce prowess, complete for cash prizes by submitting your favorite homemade dish in an eggplant cooking contest. Free. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Loomis Train Depot. 5820 Webb St. Loomis. 652-7252. loomischamber.com

Hoes Down Harvest Festival (Oct. 4)
From making goat cheese to shearing sheep, there will be dozens of opportunities for old-fashioned fun at Full Belly Farm’s yearly bash, which celebrates the end of harvest season and raises funds for more than 30 community organizations. Highlights include a children’s area where kids can craft fresh salsa, make flower crowns, and weave with local wool; grown-ups, meanwhile, can attend a wine-tasting gala featuring regional vintners. Gung-hoe families can spend Saturday night under the stars in Full Belly’s orchards ($25 per car). $25 ($5 for ages 2-12; free for ages 2 and under). 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fully Belly Farm. 16090 County Road 43. Guinda. 800-791-2110. hoesdown.org

Lambtown Festival (Oct. 4 & 5)
Now in its 28th year, this two-day event honors the sheep industry’s history in and near Dixon, which is home to such companies as Superior Farms, one of the nation’s largest lamb distributors. This heritage will be celebrated through a vast variety of activities including a barbecue cook-off where chefs will create dishes using local lamb, a wool-spinning competition, lamb cooking demonstrations featuring culinary students from the Art Institute of California, sheepdog trails, and the “Sheep-to-Shawl” contest in which participants construct a garment from raw fleece. $3 (free for ages 5 and under; $5 parking). Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dixon Fairgrounds. 655 South 1st St. Dixon. lambtown.org

Placer Farm & Barn Tour (Oct. 12)
On this self-guided expedition through Placer County’s rolling foothills, explore the various farms, ranches, and vineyards that speckle that region’s beautiful countryside. Each venue will have produce, wine, and more for purchase, as well as offer different activities and presentations, such as olive oil tasting at Colwell Thundering Herd Ranch, a composting demonstration at Shared Abundance Organic Farm, and a walking tour at Highland Orchard. Free. 1 to 5 p.m. Placer County. 530-863-7487. placerfarmandbarntour.com

PlacerGrown Harvest Festival (Oct. 18 & 19)
This festival of autumnal fun includes activities like pumpkin decorating, a family movie screening, a scarecrow building contest, and visiting a farmers’ market featuring the freshly harvested bounty of Placer County growers. As the afternoon fades, be sure to observe an illuminated display of almost 1,000 pumpkins decorated by local schoolchildren. Free. Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Johnson-Springview Park. 5480 5th St. Rocklin. placerharvestfestival.com

Mountain Mandarin Festival (Nov. 21-23)
Placer County’s juicy Satsuma mandarins take center stage at Auburn’s historic fairgrounds during this festival, boasting everything from mandarin gelato to mandarin pie to mandarin pizza and chocolate-dipped mandarins. Watch as regional chefs demonstrate how to prepare mandarin-focused meals, and be sure to pick up a bag of the succulent, spherical fruit from one of the nearly 20 local growers on hand. $3 on Fri.; $8 on Sat. & Sun. Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday 10 to 4 p.m. Gold Country Fairgrounds. 1273 High St. Auburn. 530-567-2643. mandarinfestival.com

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