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Casey Christie / The Californian

Halliburton employee Robert Casillas puts his expert touches on the BBQ chicken and tri-tip at the Kern County Fairgrounds during the annual Bakersfield's Biggest Baddest BBQ in 2012.

Kern County loves to wine and dine, and to satisfy our bottomless appetites, several festivals and cookoffs are headed our way in coming days and weeks. With most of these events, it literally pays to act now -- pre-ordering tickets is cheaper.

Kern County Nut Festival

Hold the nuts? Don't you dare say that to any of the dozens of food vendors at Kern County's inaugural Nut Festival on June 15. A preliminary list of foods, beverages and vendors hints at the delicacies that await the thousands expected to attend the event at the Kern County Museum. A partial sampling: Roast duck with chopped pistachios from Chef's Choice Noodle Bar; walnut fig grilled bread from Valentien; almond and pistachio milkshakes from Johnny Rocket's; relleno poblano with pistachios from Red Pepper; Basque salad with walnuts from Wool Growers; almond macaroon ice cream sandwiches from Moo Creamery; and nut haggis (!) from the Scottish Society.

The celebration of Kern's top three nut crops -- almonds, pistachios and walnuts -- is modeled after famed food events like the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, and organizers are pulling out all the stops, with events for children, several contests and a parade among the enticements.

If you purchase tickets before the event, you'll save 2 bucks off what they'll be charging at the gate. The tickets -- $10 for adults, $5 for children and free for children under 4 -- are available at the museum, Valley Republic Bank, Farm Credit West and all Vallitix locations. Charge by phone at 322-5200 or online at

Festival of Beers

The 21st Annual Festival of Beers is probably the only place in Kern County where you can get both a VIP craft brew like Firestone-Walker 805 and an everyman Old Milwaukee -- just two of the dozens of beers available at the event, which runs from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at Stramler Park, 3805 Chester Ave.

If you pony up before Saturday, you'll save: Tickets are $30 now, as opposed to $40 at the door. General admission includes a souvenir 4-oz. sampling cup and 40 beer samples. A C-note allows high rollers to escape the crowds in a VIP area.

On the entertainment side will be bands Karma Hitlist, Meditative Assault and Velorio; karaoke will satisfy any drunken desires to serenade a captive audience.

Go to to buy tickets and for a full list of beers.

Craft Beer Fest

On tap May 25 is the inaugural Bakersfield Craft Beer Fest, put on by Imbibe Spirits & Wine Merchant, Eureka! Burger and Moo Creamery to benefit the CSUB Alumni Association. The event offers three levels of admission: general ($35 at will call or on site at Imbibe, Moo or Eureka; $40.50 via mail), which includes a souvenir T-shirt and beer glass along with tastings from more than 20 craft breweries (including Kern River Brewing Company and Lengthwise Brewing); early admission ($50; $55.50) gets you in a half-hour early, along with the aforementioned swag; and VIP ($600), which includes early admission for eight, a designated table near the stage, tableside dinner from Eureka! and access to a VIP reserved booth serving Firestone Walker brews.

General and early admission can be purchased online at or at the businesses listed above. Each organizer has 10 VIP tables to sell, tickets for which must be purchased at either Imbibe, Eureka! or Moo. I.D. checks start at 12:15 p.m., with early admission at 12:30 and general at 1 p.m. The event runs until 5 p.m. with live music and food. Call Imbibe at 633-9463 for more information.

Biggest Baddest BBQ

The fifth annual Bakersfield Biggest Baddest BBQ, which benefits JJ's Legacy and Mendiburu Magic Foundation, is scheduled from 5 to 9 p.m. May 17, but the actual cooking heats up from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 18 with dozens of teams vying for top honors. Admission is free on Friday, while Saturday's ticket is $10 (children under 12 free). Saturday's admission includes a tasting ticket good for samples from competitors. Visit or call 331-3900 for tickets.

Greek Food Festival

Opa! the Greek Food Festival, spring edition, returns on May 11 to St. George Greek Orthodox Church. The one-day event, running noon to 11 p.m., offers many favorites, including gyros, dolmades, souvlaki and baklava. Admission is $5 and free for children under 12. Call 325-8694 for tickets.

Cherry Festival

Cherry season is under way next month, and Murray Family Farms invites you to celebrate its Cherry Festival on May 11. Running from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., the festival will include music, dancers, gourmet cherry tasting, an exclusive sweet cherry menu and more. Admission is $7.99, free for children 3 and under. Call 330-0100 for details.

Menudo Cookoff

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is looking for entries for the popular Menudo Cookoff from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 2 at the Kern County Fairgrounds, 1142 So. P St. Calls placed to the chamber for more information were not returned, but cookoff hopefuls can try: 633-5495. Pre-sale tickets are $8 ($10 at the gate); children under 5 are admitted free.

-- Californian lifestyle editors Jennifer Self and Stefani Dias