What comes to mind when you think of Bakersfield cuisine? Images of Basque, Mexican and comfort foods probably danced through your head just now.
And now you can put all those images into one delicious collage: The first-ever “Taste of Bakersfield” event is a gift to the community from CSUB, following the Presidential Investiture ceremony of Dr. Lynnette Zelezny, on Friday.
Sponsored by Dignity Health, the cultural celebration will feature the flavors, heritage and feel that the city has to offer.
CSUB Director of Events Ellie Fergon explained that Cal State Bakersfield’s fifth president, Dr. Lynnette Zelezny, wanted a celebration that would include all community members, campus partners, and CSUB faculty, staff and students.
“She also wanted other CSU delegates and guests to get a ‘taste’ of Bakersfield, so we created an event that would show the culture and support we have in this community,” Fergon said.
It’s been 14 years since the last presidential investiture, for former President Dr. Horace Mitchell.
“It is unique because it is celebrating President Zelezny and this exciting time of a new chapter in CSUB’s history,” Fergon added.
Bakersfield’s eclectic tastes will be represented in the participating vendors, which include Countryside Market and its famous chile verde mac 'n’ cheese, which has won top honors over the past four years at the annual Macaroni & Cheese Festival at CSUB.
It is a classic American dish, made by a Punjabi family, with a Mexican flair — just the kind of fusion and diversity that somehow works beautifully together, much like Kern County itself.
Cal State Bakersfield alumna and CSUB Foundation board member Raji Brar, whose family owns and operates Countryside Corp., said she is “looking forward to getting together with the community for a good cause.”
She said she owes a lot to Cal State, where she earned her degree, and is “honored and excited” to be part of the event, which speaks to the inclusiveness not only of Cal State Bakersfield, but also Dr. Zelezny.
Pyrenees French Bakery, Fresco Mexican Restaurant, Sonder, The BLVD, Michelangelo Wood-Fired Pizza and catering company Bord-A-Petite are just a few of the other Bakersfield staples that will be participating.
Pyrenees French Bakery Inc. will bring its famous sourdough dinner rolls, a family recipe for more than 74 years.
Cheri Laxague, of Pyrenees French Bakery, said Bakersfield residents love Basque food because it’s all about community.
“There is a huge Basque Club Picnic every Memorial Day weekend, and every generation gets together to eat, dance and be together,” she said.
Aside from the food booths, there will be a beer garden featuring local breweries, as well as fresh-baked pretzels from Baker’s Outpost.
The Grab ‘n’ Go section will offer a few snack items and special treats from other local favorites, including the Wonderful Company.
While food may be the focus, attendees also will have a chance to enjoy live entertainment from local band Country Deluxe, have their likeness drawn by local company CB Caricatures, and take home a souvenir photo from the TapSnap Photo Booth Rentals.
Artwork from the CSUB Children’s Center, themed around the investiture’s “Rise” logo, will be displayed throughout the event.
Students from the Kern High School District have contributed multimedia projects featuring both the “Rise” theme and the concept of “Taste of Bakersfield” for the audience to enjoy and admire.
Photos from President Zelezny’s first year also will be displayed.
“We hope guests take away a sense of pride in the university and our new president,” Fergon said. “We also hope that people will see how the community can come together, not just the campus community and Kern County, but the CSU community as well.”
Fergon added the university could not have hosted community-wide celebrations like “Taste of Bakersfield” without sponsors, whose generous support allows admission, food and activities to be offered free of charge.
“Many people have not ever attended an investiture and we hope that this experience will connect them to the university in a closer way,” she said.
— Shelby Parker is the public affairs and communications coordinator at Cal State Bakersfield