The sound of squealing tires and high-powered engines returned to downtown San Jose on Wednesday afternoon, no doubt shocking anyone having lunch in the vicinity of Plaza de Cesar Chavez.

A group of race cars competing at this weekend's Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca -- including entries from Aston Martin, Ferrari, BMW and Ford -- made a few demonstration laps around the park, separated from regular street traffic by a plastic rope. Earthquakes defender Jordan Stewart, who served as grand marshal of the event, rode shotgun in one of the cars.

For some people, it sure brought back memories -- both good and bad -- of the San Jose Grand Prix of a decade ago. And it definitely got the attention of people quietly having lunch downtown.

Tommy Aguilar was at Blackbird Tavern on Paseo de San Antonio where he still heard the "Mini Grand Prix" a couple blocks away like it was right outside. "It was booming loud, and everybody was turning their heads that way wondering what was going on," he said.

Rebecca Kohn, a librarian at San Jose State, was less pleased. "Didn't we get rid of the idea that downtown SJ is a racetrack?" she wondered on Twitter.

In addition to revving up attention for the race, the drivers also spent time at the Tech Museum talking to more than 400 schoolchildren as part of Mazda's Racing Accelerates Creative Education (RACE) program to promote STEM learning.


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LOS GATOS THEATRE SPARKLES: What a treat it was to see filmmaker Michael Whalen's documentary "The Farmer and the Chef" on Tuesday at the Los Gatos Theatre with a capacity crowd that included the film's subjects, Love Apple Farms' Cynthia Sandberg and Manresa's David Kinch.

Whalen praised Florian and Lori Barth and Jim and Alicia Goetz, whose two families shepherded the renovation of the 99-year-old theater. "They put everything together to bring the theater back to life," said Whalen, who's also a professor at Santa Clara University. "The ability to have independent cinema in an independent house is a rarity. It's a gift to us filmmakers."

Of course, it won't all be independent fare, as "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" opens there Friday.

VEGGIE DELIGHTS: Some of the valley's seasonal farmers markets return this week, including the long-running downtown San Jose market at San Pedro Square on Friday and the Willow Glen market behind the Garden Theatre on Saturday.

Kaiser Permanente will be at the downtown event with its "blender bike," which uses human power to run a smoothie-making blender. And visitors to Willow Glen on Saturday can listen to the Willow Glen High jazz choir and watch Chef Umberto Pala from Vin Santo restaurant cooking live.

RUNNING AROUND: There's no rest for the VMC Foundation, which is hosting an inaugural 5K run/walk at Ed Levin Park in Milpitas on Saturday to support Valley Medical Center's Burn Center. Firefighters will be running alongside burn survivors in the race, which starts at 11 a.m. Get more information or register at www.scvmc5k.org.

Contact Sal Pizarro at spizarro@mercurynews.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/spizarro.