LEMOORE -- Sometimes a pizza isn’t just a pizza. Sometimes it’s a metaphor for an entire community.
That’s the spirit behind next week’s return of the annual Central Valley Pizza Festival in Lemoore.
“People think it’s pizza and just pizza. But that’s not really what this event is about. Pizza Fest is here to celebrate everything that Lemoore has to offer that you can make a pizza out of it,” said Lemoore Chamber of Commerce CEO Amy Ward. “So, you take Leprino’s, being the largest cheese factory, you take Olam, which is the sauce and the spices and all the agriculture that goes into a pizza, from the dough to the toppings. It’s about celebrating Lemoore and the businesses that make Lemoore so unique.”
The 18th annual celebration, scheduled for 5-10 p.m. Friday, April 13 and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, April 14, will be two days of food, vendors, carnival games, rides, bounce houses, pony rides, live bands and beer gardens. The free event takes place at Lemoore City Park, 350 W. Bush St.
In all, there will be around 20 food vendors, Ward said, including pizza kingpins Boston House of Pizza and Fatte Albert’s. Also available will be area favorites like the Chicken Shack, Toshiko Japanese Cuisine, Super Mercado Leon. Vendors with festival staples like corndogs, hotdogs and even fried alligator will also be on-hand.
This year’s pizza-eating competition is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s fun to watch to see what people can do. They dip it in the water; they do all kinds of tricks to get the pizza to go down. It’s not for the faint of heart. There are buckets on site for them for a reason. We’ll leave it at that,” Ward laughed.
Teams of two will tag-team Fatte Albert’s infamous 28-inch Fatte within a set amount of time. Described as Central California’s biggest pizza, Fatte Albert’s website describes the pie as being able to “easily accommodate” 12-20 people.
Prizes for munching most of this pizza are $200 for first, $100 for second and the third-place team gets $75. The team that eats the most pizza within the time limit wins.
Cash prizes will also be given for the Giant Slice contest, which sees 16 teams with 30 minutes to decorate a 4 ½-foot slice of pizza with all edible ingredients. Then, all slices will be joined together to complete a 9-foot pizza and judges decide who will win cash for first, second and third place.
“It’s a great team-building exercise,” Ward said.
In between the food and contests, live local music will be delivered to the crowds’ ears.
Local favorites like Flashback, Drew the California Kid and the Fabulous Enchantments will perform throughout the day Saturday and Visalia party-makers August will perform at 7 p.m. Friday.
“[August] love to come out and play in Lemoore and they have a great following of people who come out to see them play. They’re a really great band,” Ward said.
At 6 p.m. Saturday, the FAST Credit Union’s kids’ mascot Dollar Dog arrives to help judge the FAST Dollar Dog Challenge. The challenge includes 10 teams of two kids each who get the chance to compete in a relay race with pizza ingredients. Dollar Dog makes the final decision as to which kids’ pizza receives the final prize.
New Chamber members will be welcomed and ribbon cuttings will commence at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
Julissa Zavala contributed to this report.