At 25, Village Fest is older than some of its youngest guests. But a quarter of a century on, the event is going stronger than ever.
The annual festival celebrates its milestone anniversary on Sept. 7, when it will return to the Kern County Museum for another year of beer, wine, food and entertainment.
"Twenty-five years is pretty special to be here," said Ralph Fruguglietti, the event's co-founder. "Certainly, when we thought to do this 25 years ago, we weren't thinking about celebrating 25 years."
In two and a half decades, Village Fest has earned a reputation as "party of the year." With more than 100 beers, almost 40 food vendors and 15 local bands on five stages, spread out across seven themed areas on the museum's 16 acres, it would be hard for anything else to compete.
"Between the decor, the entertainment, the food and drinks you'd think you've been transported to another world," Miranda Whitworth, the event's media coordinator, wrote in an email.
Not only is Village Fest still around after first starting as Brews on the Roof (then Brews in the Village when it moved to the museum), its organizers aren't resting on their laurels.
"We really try to keep it fresh," Fruguglietti said. "We've kept it interesting. We've expanded and we keep adding different things."
The last two years, that has meant amping up the food game. This year's Village Fest will have local restaurants serving samples of everything from savory to sweet.
While the food offerings are still being firmed up, festival organizers could share a few examples. Newcomer Maggie's Sunrise Cafe will serve mini sliders and mac and cheese, while New Vintage Grill will bring pastrami sandwiches and Mesa Mexican Grill will have loaded chile verde fries. Frugatti’s Italian Eatery, which Fruguglietti owns, will be serving Theresa’s Tortellini with sun dried tomato cream sauce and chicken with a Pinot Grigio mushroom sauce.
On the other end of the taste spectrum, Sugar Twist Bakery will have its cream cheese puffs and doughnuts, La Rosa Fruit Bars will have miniature frozen pops and Luvspun will have cotton candy.
But don't worry about Village Fest moving away from its beer festival roots. There will be something for all kind of beer lovers: local breweries like Temblor Brewing Company and Lengthwise Brewing Company, big names like Budweiser and Coors Light and everything in between.
There will also be wine from Tlo Wines, Tehachapi Wine and Cattle Co. and more, as well as ciders, hard sodas and other non-beer alcoholic drinks.
This year's bands include Imperial Stout and Rod P & Nu Standard making their Village Fest debut. Several other bands will return to the event, like Blonde Faith, Members Only, The Aviators and Mento Buru. That last band has been with the event since it was Brews on the Roof, when they were told to discourage guests from dancing, which became the inspiration for its "No Dancing Please!" debut album.
While they enjoy their food and beer, guests can wander through areas like the Village Lawn, Vino Village, La CantinaVille, Big KahunaVille and MicroBrews Alley to find their next sample.
"No event is as large as ours," Fruguglietti said. "We started out as a beer festival. We've gone from that to a beer and wine festival, to a beer and wine and entertainment festival and (now food). It keeps growing and growing. That's fun to watch."
Village Fest has never needed an excuse to party but with a big anniversary there's another reason to celebrate.
The event will honor the occasion "with special toasts from the stages, awesome throwback decor and a cool limited edition T-shirt with the 25th anniversary logo," Whitworth said. "We really want to celebrate the last 25 years and all of the people who have supported Village Fest from day one."
Since its start, Village Fest has acquired a large following, with new arrivals and recent 21-year-olds joining each year. Because of that, it's an event that tends to sell out. Already, Village Fest has sold a record number of early bird tickets.
"Tickets sales are rocking and rolling," Whitworth said. "So, grab your tickets online now. Every year we sell out, and every year we scrounge a few extra to release the day of. Don't be caught waiting to see if you can get in."
Putting on an event of this size requires a team of 600 volunteers the day of and a large planning committee throughout the year. It's a lot of work but Fruguglietti said people are happy to join because it's all for a good cause.
Net proceeds for Village Fest goes to Children’s Advocates Resource Endowment (CARE), which benefits local nonprofits like the Boys and Girls Club and MARE.
"In the last 25 years we have been able to fund an endowment for CARE that has surpassed $1 million dollars," Whitworth said. "Long after Village Fest is gone, the community's support will still be helping Kern County kids."
Fruguglietti praised the committee members for their work, each covering some aspect of the ever-growing event. Keeping Village Fest around for another 25 years will require new blood in the committee, but the co-founder is confident his group will continue to grow.
"As long as we see that people love this event and feel like our time is worth it, it'll keep going," he said. "The key is to bring on some new talent to take over."
For now, Whitworth encouraged anyone interested in attending Village Fest to come out and have a good time.
"You will walk out of that event knowing you got what you paid for and you helped kids in Kern County in the process," she said. "If you've never been, get yourself a ticket, take the night off and see what people have been raving about for the last 25 years."