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LEMOORE — For many Valley residents who never sausage so much fun to be had, this year’s Central Valley Pizza Fest and Lemoore Days may never be topped.

The three-day festival kicked off Friday evening and went through the weekend, featuring food, a beer garden, bands, games, activities, contests, carnival rides, shopping and more.

“My personal favorite is the pizza decorating contest because you have 16 teams that just go all out,” Lemoore Chamber of Commerce CEO and organizer Amy Ward said.

While it’s true that the name of the Pizza Festival may be a bit of a misnomer – pizza is no more or less available at the event than asada fries, burritos or hamburgers – pizza symbolically represents all that Lemoore has to offer, Ward said. Local farmers grow everything needed for a pizza, from the sauce to the cheese and local businesses ensure the availability of those products.

“Everybody locally knows what the Pizza Festival is all about, but some people might not understand that this event is really all about celebrating who we are as a community,” she said.

The commitment to local culture could be seen throughout the Chamber of Commerce’s 19th annual event. Friday night’s kickoff was heralded by a performance by the Lemoore Middle College High School Panter Band and members of the Santa Rosa Rancheria Tachi-Yokut Tribe performed a tribal dance and hosted a booth, offering information on the tribe.

Eddie Lino of longtime Lemoore staple White Top Restaurant helped organized the car show.

Food vendors including Chicken Shack, Beto’s, Fatte Alberts Pizza Company and others lined the Lemoore City Park, offering mouth-watering snacks.

Dr. Kait Betchel of K&K Karing for Kreatures Veterinary Hospital operated a booth during the event and participated in the giant pizza competition. It was Betchel’s first time at the Pizza Fest, she said, and she celebrated with a slice.

“We just wanted to come out and support the community and get to know some more people,” Betchel said.

K&K opened last July and has stayed busy since, she said. In addition to dogs and cats, the doctor sees many other less common animals throughout the day, including birds, rats and lizards.

And while the event may be a fun way to let loose on a weekend, the Lemoore Police Department’s Problem Oriented Policing Team was on-hand to remind visitors to celebrate responsibly.

“We like to extend our hands out to help the community and we’re making a presence out here and letting people know we’re human beings as well,” Lemoore police Cpl. Osvaldo Maldonado said.

The POP booth featured a device that could simulate the feelings of intoxication, giving children a chance to stumble around and experience the effects of “beer goggles.”

“We just want to remind those who are of  age and who are drinking to make accommodations and to drink responsibly and for those who aren’t of age to drink, they can still have fun,” Maldonado said.

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