Lafayette may not be a restaurant city in the manner of San Francisco, but its reputation as an emerging foodie town will likely get a little boost over the weekend as thousands come to the annual Lafayette Art and Wine Festival.
Vying with the Pittsburg Seafood Festival for bragging rights as Contra Costa County's largest street festival, some 60,000 visitors are expected at Lafayette's arts and wine event showcasing the culinary offerings of more than two dozen restaurants -- most of which feed their customers year-round within the "footprint" of the weekend festival.
"It may not be Berkeley's 'gourmet ghetto,' but it certainly stands up to any other group of restaurants in the area," said Jay Lifson, executive director of the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, which is again presenting the festival. And he knows there are other groups of fine restaurants nearby, including those in Walnut Creek and Danville.
So too, does Michael Dunn, the chef at Yankee Pier Lafayette. Having plied his trade in downtown Lafayette for the past three years, Dunn had, years earlier, opened the Lark Creek Cafe in downtown Walnut Creek.
"I see a lot of people I knew from Walnut Creek, who used to go to Walnut Creek to go to good restaurants, and now they're staying in town (Lafayette) more," Dunn said. The Art and Wine Festival, he said, is a good showcase for Lafayette's growing stable of premium eateries both for locals and for out-of-towners.
But it isn't all about the food. The festival's Premium Wine Pavilion will feature high-end wines, provided by Wine Thieves of Lafayette and The Wine Chest, a Pleasant Hill-based storage facility for fine wines, as well as food provided by Nibblers Eatery & Wine Bar. Musicians set to play the Premium Wine Stage include Cover2Cover, Delta Dawgs and Julia Glyde.
The Premium Wine Stage is one of three musical venues for the weekend. Opening the main stage activities on Saturday will be The Ramblers, winner of the recent "Dads Bands" 2010 Classic Covers Cup competition, co-sponsored by the chamber and by Red House Studios of Walnut Creek.
The festival attracts musicians playing jazz, blues and rock. Bands scheduled this year include local legend (and Stanley Middle School music teacher) Bob Athayde & Friends, Juke Joint, Annie Sampson, Chubby's All Stars, Aja Vu (Steely Dan tribute), David Martin's House Party (featuring Lafayette's own David Martin), The Spazmatics (a tribute to the 80s), The Refugees (Tom Petty tribute), ZEBOP (Santana tribute), Evolution (a Journey tribute band). and, back for the fourth time, the popular Beatles tribute band the Sun Kings.
With more than 230 arts and crafts booths, the Art and Wine Festival will have ceramics, photography, prints, paintings, blown glass, sculpture, jewelry and other media. That is separate from the "Local Artists Alley" featuring members of the Lafayette Gallery and the Lamorinda Arts Alliance.
Adding to the family friendliness will be the "KidZone" with party jumps, games, arts, crafts and entertainment. Young Lamorinda musicians will play at the end of each day on the KidZone stage.
Other groups with festival booths include Lafayette Arts & Science Foundation; Trust in Education, a nonprofit operated by Budd MacKenzie that provides health care, education and economic development programs to the village of Lalander, Afghanistan; the Green Zone, with its House of the Future; Try Lafayette First retail promotion program, and the Entrepreneur's Club.
The latter is a chamber-coordinated group of local small-business operators without dedicated "brick and mortar" locations that gets together monthly to discuss various topics relevant to their businesses. Their booth at the festival, Lifson said, is like "their brick-and-mortar building for the weekend."
Income from the art and wine festival helps pay for chamber operations and provides money for local nonprofits and service agencies, including the Lafayette Art and Sciences Foundation.
Featuring art, wine, beer, music and shopping
WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 18, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 19, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
WHERE: Downtown Lafayette.
INFORMATION: Go to http://lafayettechamber.org/events/art-wine-festival/
PARKING: Free parking is available at the Lafayette BART station; free shuttle to and from the BART parking lots