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Saratoga Blossom Festival returns after 2-year pandemic hiatus – The Mercury News

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After a two-year hiatus forced by the pandemic, Saratoga’s Blossom Festival returned Saturday in full swing.
Hundreds of people turned out at the Heritage Orchard in Saratoga to celebrate Saratoga’s history, agricultural roots and the community itself.
Rows of arts and crafts booths lined the orchard as musicians performed and costumed historical figures walked through the orchard grounds.
“It’s just so family-oriented, and it’s the way Saratoga used to be. Friendly and it does bring back some of Saratoga’s past history,” said Dianna Espinosa, a long-time Saratoga resident.
Saturday’s Blossom Festival has been sponsored annually by the Saratoga Historical Foundation since 2013, but the tradition goes much further into the past. The first-ever Blossom Festival started in Saratoga in 1900 and was held until World War II. The Historical Foundation later revived the festival in 2013.
“It’s a great family event, and it’s kind of one-of-a-kind in Saratoga, so that’s kind of nice to have,” Annette Stransky, President Saratoga Historical Foundation, said. “You can bring your kids, walk around, [there’s] lots of nice children’s activities, it’s just a nice way to spend a day.”
The historical society had to pause the event for the past two years due to the pandemic. This year, the group closed the Warner Hutton House to allow for better social distancing.
“My daughter could hardly wait!” Espinosa said. “She said, ‘It’s been two years and we haven’t been to the Blossom Festival!’”
Dozens of attendees flocked toward the rows of antique cars and Early Day Gas Engines and Tractors that were parked outside the Warner Hutton House.
Vivek Vengateri and his daughter Swara, who live in Cupertino, joined the crowd to look at the unique cars as they passed through the area.
“I kept wondering how they keep it in such good shape!” Swara said of the cars.
David Welch, who lives in Saratoga, said he’s been coming to the festival for years, and the antique cars are his favorite part of the event.
“I’ve just had many friends involved in that for many years,” he said. “I’ve displayed my 56’ Oldsmobile, but I have since sold it.”
But there was plenty of activities to keep the children riveted as well. Several kids gathered in the petting zoo area to gawk and pet — the rabbits, chickens and even a pony.
Arts and crafts vendors included everything from woodworking and handcrafted pillows to blown glass and fine jewelry.
And, about a dozen people dressed as distinguished figured, like Isabel Stine —  who built the Hakone Gardens or Olivia de Havilland — the renowned actress who grew up in Saratoga — walked the grounds to answer questions about the area’s past.
Meanwhile, bands like Parlor Tricks, Dolce Musica and Toot Sweet performed at locations throughout the orchard and in the gazebo.
But as Stransky noted, the history of the orchard is an integral part of the festival. Once known as the “Valley of the Hearts Delight,” for its acres of fruit trees, the valley produced one third of the world’s annual production of prunes, she said.
“The valley was once the leading producer of prunes and agriculture was an important industry,” according to the Saratoga Historical Foundation. “Holding the event in the blossoming Heritage Orchard and the surrounding area is a reminder of the importance of the period.”

Authors Tim Stanley, who wrote The Last of the Prune Pickers, and Lisa Newman, who wrote For the Love of Apricots, also made sure to keep the history alive at their own booths at the festival where they spoke about the valley’s historical role.
“What a lovely way to spend this gorgeous sunny, spring day in Saratoga!” Mayor Tina Walia said. “The Blossom Festival celebrates Saratoga’s fascinating history, and I can’t wait to see where our community goes next.”
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