If you're headed out to "Bakersfield's high school reunion," aka Village Fest, don't get struck by the "Bakersfield curse."

Before your mind goes racing to any number of unsavory scenarios, we're talking about that habit of last-minute ticket buying that plagues nearly every local event, fundraiser and ticketed gathering. 

Things will be a bit different for Bakersfield's "party of the year" (and, yes, the annual gathering at the Kern County Museum has more aliases than a check-bouncer on the lam). Those planning to go to the Sept. 9 event should pick up their phones or head to their computers since all tickets are being sold through Eventbrite.

That means no box office — and minimal holdup in the line to get into the evening of music, food, adult beverages and fun.

Music starts the moment you line up to enter with DJ Phantom Stranger spinning tunes at the entrance. His will be one of a number of DJ stations — including radio stations KRAB 106.1, Groove 99.3, Energy 95.3 and Hot 94.1 — set up across the 16 acres to fill in the gaps among the five performance stages.

Those stages will be packed with some of Bakersfield's best bands, a mix of returning and new acts.

"We're trying really hard to keep the bands fresh — along with standbys that always kill it," said Miranda Whitworth, event media coordinator and steering committee member.

She pointed out the festival's Blues Stage will have a heavy dose of female power, with two of the three performers for the night (Blonde Faith and Warfield) fronted by women.

"I think that's amazing. You don't see a lot of that in town."

Other musical acts include Kama Ruby, Dub Seeds, Truxton Mile, Members Only, Velorio, Teddy Spanke & The Tex Pistols, Mento Buru and The Aviators.

Each of the five areas of the event is divided up with designated drinks (brew except for Vino Village), performers and eats.

More than 30 eateries will take part including Barrington’s Jamaican Kitchen, which ran out of wings when it first joined in 2015, and Centro 18 Cuisine and Lounge, Salty's BBQ and Catering, Wiki's Wine Dive & Grill, Wood-Dale Market, Sugar Twist and Frugatti's Italian Eatery, owned by event co-founder Ralph Fruguglietti. New additions this year include Mi Peru Restaurante and Bootleggers Craft Pub & Eatery.

More than 600 volunteers come together for one night that's months in the making (planning starts in early spring). Proceeds, which usually exceed $100,000, go toward Children’s Advocates Resource Endowment (CARE), the nonprofit benefiting local children's charities. Forty percent of funds raised goes straight to local children’s groups and the rest is socked away in an endowment fund.

After 23 years, Village Fest has dialed in all the ingredients for a good cause and a good time, which is the reason so many people make it an annual pilgrimage.

"There are people you only see once a year and you see them at Village Fest," Whitworth said. "There's a camaraderie; it's fun to see groups of friends who go every year, for 10, 15, 20 years.

"You see people laughing and dancing. There's an energy and vibe in the air. It's a lot of people's happy place for sure."

Village Fest runs from 6 to 10 p.m. Sept. 9 at the museum, 3801 Chester Ave. Tickets are $75 at eventbrite.com (accessible through bakersfieldvillagefest.com). This is a 21-and-over event and attendees must show a valid picture ID at the entrance.

Guild House reopens

Along with Village Fest, another seasonal event around Labor Day is the reopening of the Guild House downtown.

The nonprofit, all-volunteer-operated restaurant wisely closes each year in June to wait out the summer and return for fall. Starting Tuesday, diners can enjoy a three-course gourmet meal weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for only $15.95 (plus tax and gratuity). Private meeting rooms are available, and, for larger parties (groups of eight or more), the cost is $20 per person, tax and gratuity included.

Reservations are encouraged by calling 325-5478.

The month's menu is posted in advance on the Guild House’s website, guildhousebakersfield.com. The opening day menu consists of red pepper soup, Georgia chicken and lemon almond angels.(Guests can also opt for the week's entree salad, valley chicken salad.)

In keeping with Bakersfield's love of dining for a good cause, proceeds from the restaurant benefit the Henrietta Weill Memorial Child Guidance Clinic, which provides mental health and substance abuse services to Kern County children, adults and families, as well as provides resources to promote wellness and recovery. Over the years, more than $2 million has been raised by the restaurant.

New volunteers are welcome to fill a variety of roles, including servers and cooks. Call 325-5478 or e-mail info@guildhousebakersfield.com for more information.

Grill hotline

During this long holiday weekend, people may weather the heat to get their grill on for the last official grilling holiday of the summer. Although we have no LongHorn Steakhouses near us (the closest is in Alabama), their expert grill masters are available for a Grill Us Hotline on Sunday.

From 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., guests can call the hotline at 1-855-LH-GRILL (1-855-544-7455) for immediate help from a tried-and-true grilling expert.

Home cooks can also chat live with LongHorn 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Fans can text “GRILL” to 55702 for some of LongHorn’s tips and recipes delivered straight to their phone.

Queso query

Having never been to Texas, I have to say some of the best queso I've ever had was at HomeState in Los Angeles, opened by Austin transplant Briana Valdez. But since Southland trips are few and far between these days, it's worth looking for options closer to home. 

Two new contenders are the queso at Chipotle and Del Taco's queso blanco, which debuted Thursday. You won't draw a "blanco" in determining that the drive-through options beats the fast casual spot. Chipotle's was blander with the slight mealiness that happens when you're making a real cheese sauce that starts to separate. While Del Taco's option probably wouldn't recognize real cheese if it was poured all over it, it had a better taste. Much spicier and great for dipping. 

Chipotle charges $3.55 for chips and queso, $5.35 for a large order and $2.10 for a side (no chips). Meanwhile, Del Taco's queso and chips is $1.29; the cheese is also available as an add-on for 50 cents or as a side order (no chips) for $1. More importantly, the chain found a way to highlight the queso blanco in new items: queso bean burrito ($1.29), with slow-cooked beans, queso and grated cheddar cheese; queso loaded nachos ($5.79), chips topped with the garden, sour cream, queso, beans, and choice of seasoned beef, grilled chicken or carne asada; and queso fries ($3.79) topped with queso and grated cheddar cheese.

New and different

Sorella Ristorante Italiano is serving a lemon tiramisu, made with Limoncello liqueur and topped with freshly grated white chocolate. ... Popular food truck Curbside Kitchen has rolled up to the Cal State Bakersfield campus where it will be serving hungry students, staff and visitors through September. ... It's Hatch chile season again and ​The Habit Burger Grill has brought back a trio of items: a grilled Hatch and pepper jack charburger, grilled Hatch and golden chicken salad and grilled Hatch and pepper jack chicken sandwich. ... Yogurtland has added premium vanilla and chocolate ice cream to its menu. Like its frozen yogurt, the ice cream can be paired with its dozens of topping options. ... BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse is again serving its Oktoberfest lager, back for a limited time. Temblor Brewing Co. is offering its own seasonal marzen, Temblorfest.

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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