Almond everybody went walnutty for Kern County's first nut-themed mega-festival Saturday at the Kern County Museum.
The pathways of the museum's Pioneer Village were packed with people and lined with vendors hawking nut-influenced snacks, desserts, beverages, beers, meals and novelties as the sprawling Kern County Nut Festival rolled on from morning into the afternoon.
Judged on turnout alone, the first time benefit for the museum seems to have scored with locals and visitors.
A large line of festival-goers was waiting outside the gates at opening time, organizer Sheryl Barbich said.
And not long after the lunch hour volunteers manning the entrances ran out of the 5,000 tickets printed for the event and started recycling the ones already turned in. That would put the attendance for an event that would run to 7 p.m. at well over 5,000
Barbich and co-chair Beth Brookhart Pandol were exuberant -- and hungry -- as they took a moment away from organizing to chat with a reporter.
They hadn't had a moment to grab even a fruit and pistachio power bar in the rush to welcome hundreds of volunteers, VIPs and vendors and thousands of guests into the first time event.
Pandol said there were the expected first-time glitches.
"We'll learn for next year," she said.
So there will be a second-annual event?
"Did you doubt us?" Barbich asked with a twinkle in her eye.
"It was a nutty year in the nut business this year."
So said Matthew Haddon, a sales rep for nut tree grower Sierra Gold Nursery, as he and his young family snacked on shaved ice and contemplated a run at an ice cream stand at the first annual celebration of nuttiness here.
Other attendees also grabbed the opportunity to dish up a family-friendly pun or two.
Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall, Pandol said, donned an almond costume and toured the grounds calling himself "Mayor Hull."
Barbich came prepared with her favorite promotional pun:
"Come out of your shell," she said when asked what her favorite nut joke was.
"I can-nut tell a lie," Pandol offered.
Haddon explained his punny offering, saying there was an explosion of nut tree planting in Kern this year and heavy competition for the companies and workers capable of getting an orchard in the ground.
It was good for his business, he said.
It wasn't a bad time to launch a nut festival either.
Haddon worked the Sierra Gold booth for awhile before breaking free for some quality time with his wife and three children and said he was surprised at the enthusiasm and turnout for a first-time event.
"Lady" Susan Stallings and "Duchess of the Dale" Jeannie Johnson were part of an army of Regal Red Belles society members clustered at the nut festival's front gates early Saturday morning waiting to get in.
Decked out in their signature red and purple finery -- the trappings of their social club -- the two Bakersfield sisters-in-law said they were there to celebrate Kern County.
"We wanted to support the nut festival," Stallings said.
Her father was a farmer and, as a further qualification, "my family's nuts," she said, laughing.
"I love all kinds of nuts," Stallings said. "I grew up eating them."
Judi Jackson grew up with nuts too -- on a Monterey County walnut ranch.
She shared vivid memories of harvest time, watching massive shaking machines shiver nuts from the trees and trucks being filled with the crop.
Jackson and husband Gary, who showed up in the late morning, said they were very impressed with the festival.
Kern Count needs more of these kinds of events, people said.
"We're such an ag community. We need to promote it," Judi said.
Gary Jackson credits almonds for dropping his cholesterol levels sharply.
He eats handfuls of raw almonds, his wife said, and he doesn't need drugs to keep his cholesterol low.
Memories of nuts connect Haddon's childhood to his current career as well.
His great-grandparents had a massive walnut tree in their front yard and he remembers fondly using a long pole to knock free the nuts so he could take them inside, crack them open and eat them.
But on Saturday he swapped walnuts for a new favorite snack -- a pistachio-fruit power bar.