44th Annual ClovisFest

Saturday was the first day of 44th annual ClovisFest, a day filled with hot air balloons, over 200 craft and commercial vendor booths and a new and improved International Village exhibit.

Priscilla Montell, administrative manager of the Clovis Chamber of Commerce, credited the turn out to warmer weather and the fact that the event opened an hour earlier this year.

“It seemed like the crowds at the rodeo grounds were huge, I would say in the thousands,” Montell said.

But three friends taking a food break at ClovisFest were in town for a more personal reason – to reenact a photo taken decades ago while they were still in high school and Liz Lewallyn was still a cheerleader.

Lewallyn, who now lives in Los Angeles, said the event is “charming.”

“It’s a stunning, perfect day outside,” her friend Caryn Carroll from Ventura added.

Kym Sanders, the third friend who still lives in Clovis said, “I love the vendors, buying stuff and hanging out with friends.”

Ann Levesque, a proprietor of natural and organic spa product with Love Suds, has been a vendor at ClovisFest for four years.

“When I started today I had 120 ‘Shopkins’ bath bombs and now, at noon, I have three left,” Levesque said.

“ClovisFest is great,” she continued. “This is our clientele – those looking for something different that doesn’t cost $15 at Lush.”

Another business present was Crafty Creations, which is also located inside Once Upon a Time on Pollasky Avenue.

Owner Brandi Havener and her husband Roger have been in business seven years, and this was their fifth year at ClovisFest.

Havener takes Clovis’ small business mentality very seriously and wants prospective customers to know that not only are all of her items handmade, but she doesn’t even have an online shop in an effort to “keep everything local.”

Among all of the vendors spanning about 12 city blocks, there was also a petting zoo brought a whopping 150 miles from Windswept Ranch in Rosamond.

Owner Diana Frieling said the animals did fine on the long journey because “they are professionals.”

“It’s good for the kids,” Frieling added. “It’s funny, you see parents dragging their kids in kicking and screaming and two hours later the kids are kicking and screaming when their parents are trying to drag them out.”

Vendors, food trucks and petting zoos weren’t all ClovisFest 2018 had to boast – Fourth and Woodworth was home to a stage with live bands performing all day.

Local band 51 Aces drew a huge crowd around 3 p.m., nearing the end of the day. The group decided after years apart to get back together to play a set for this very special event.

Josh, the drummer of 51 Aces, said he was “having a ball.”

His mother, Julie Glenn just happens to be the owner of Clovis staples: House of JuJu, Papa’s Place and On the Edge. Glenn is also a board member of the Business Organization of Old Town (B.O.O.T.).

“This lineup is the original,” Glenn said of her son’s band. “When they get together it’s different. There is something about the family and camaraderie that is just beautiful. And they have a great fan base.”

“It’s amazing to watch all of these people of all different ages, backgrounds, come together – just enjoying the music,” the restaurateur said about ClovisFest.

Tommy Morris, who was “born and raised in Clovis way,” has been coming to the event since the 80s.

“Once I found out 51 Aces was playing, I settled in here [at the beer garden area of the event]. I’ve got the foreign legion right next to me so I feel right at home,” Morris said.

Morris is a moose member of the Clovis American Legion.

“We are just a group of people who love to raise money to give to those less fortunate than us,” he said. “We don’t judge, we just give.”

Last – but definitely not least – there was the third annual ClovisFest International Village.

Linda Kuma of the Polynesian Club of Fresno has been educating patrons of the event about the islands “since the beginning” with native cultural displays such as Tapa, a barkcloth made in the islands of the Pacific Ocean, primarily in Tonga, Samoa and Fiji.

“We are not interested in selling food,” Kuma said. “We want to show the beauty of the island, inside and out – and educate anybody who wants to know more about the culture.”

During the event, the Polynesian Club facilitated native drumming and dancing lessons as well as hula and other types of dancing performances.

Kuma invited anybody who was feeling the rhythm or was touched by the music to join the club on stage.

“I am always so happy to know that after someone has danced with us – their heart is Polynesian. It’s a great place to belong.”

“Things like this just get better,” said Joydee Padua, director of Halau Hula I Ka La (or Hula School in the Sun), about their third year at International Village.

Padua is not new to events that educate the public about diversity.

“We recently had our biggest event of the year on Oct. 6 called ‘Aloha in the Park.’ It brings together all of the different Polynesian cultures – and there are a lot of them.” she said.

“We are honored, proud and excited to be part of something that brings the community together like this – to really showcase diversity,” Padua said. “The sheer number of people who attend ClovisFest is amazing.”

Kelsey Lester-Perry
Kelsey is an award-winning reporter from San Jose who recently moved to Clovis. Her previous work experiences includes the Spartan Daily, La Voz Weekly, and the Gilroy Patch.