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Cool night temperatures put blush on Placer County mandarins



mmf2012-2-5781144-5959681NEWCASTLE, Calif. Cool nights are just what the doctor orders for Placer County’s famous owari Satsuma mandarin oranges to start turning color and developing the sweetness and intense flavor that Foothills mandarins are known for.

According to Gary Gilligan, CEO of the Mountain Mandarin Festival in Auburn, the cool nights are just what is needed to have plenty of the ripe citrus on hand for the annual event which heralds the first of the harvest each year. The Placer-grown mandarin oranges are the featured guest of honor at the annual festival, scheduled for Nov. 16-18, which attracts upwards of 30,000 visitors to Auburn from throughout Northern California and the Reno-Tahoe area.

Mandarin growers in Placer County should have plenty of fruit available for the festival, where thousands of pounds in familiar orange mesh bags are sold each year.  Early mandarins should be golden in color and sweet with a little tartness due to citric and other acids.  That sugar-acid balance is what connoisseurs of Foothills-grown mandarins look for.

During warm sunny days, the plants are using the sun to make sugars and other flavor components, and cool nights allow these to accumulate in the fruit and stimulate the color change. As the season progresses, tartness in the fruit declines and the fruit gets sweeter.

Placer County has been home to many mandarin orchards since before World War II and now boasts more than 85 growers. Bob Bonk, Snow’s Citrus Court and president of the Foothills Farmers Markets/Placer Grown, says “The recent sunshine on the trees is great, but it is the cool Foothill nights that makes our Mandarins the best in the west, just like the foggy regions are great for grapes.”

Proceeds benefit four $1,000 NABA scholarships, the Newcastle Fire Department and the Golden Spike Lions Club. Take the time to experience all the Mountain Mandarin Festival brings to you.  You may want to spread your visit over two days!


  • 19th Annual Mountain Mandarin Festival
  • Nov. 16-18
    Hours:  Friday: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Saturday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Gold Country Fairgrounds, 1273 High St., Auburn, Calif. Auburn is on I-80 about an hour and a half from Reno.
  • Admission:  FRIDAY SPECIAL: ADMISSION JUST $3 or free with two non-perishable food items for the Auburn Food Closet.
    Saturday/Sunday Admission: $7; seniors $5; age 12 and under free
  • Gold Country Fairgrounds parking $5, some street parking available
  • More information: 916 663-1918 or www.mandarinfestival.com

Your guide to enjoying the festival

mmf2012-1-2306310-5494456The festival is Auburn’s largest event, and organizers are preparing for upwards of 30,000 visitors over Nov. 16-18 as locals and guests flock to the Gold Country Fairgrounds for their first fix of the juicy fruit. Placer County mandarin orange growers will bring thousands of familiar 10-pound, orange-mesh bags of the fruit ready for travel home to friends and family, and samples abound.

Mandarins should be plentiful; however it’s a good idea to get your bags early, check them in for curb-side delivery and then enjoy the festival. Here are the highlights for 2012:

SaveMart Mandarin Marketplace – Fresh Mandarins to Sample, Purchase or Mail Order

When autumn days in the Placer County foothills are warm and the nights are cold, mandarin orange growers anxiously await the first blush of color on their fruit. Just before Thanksgiving, samples are eagerly tasted for sweetness and then long hours are spent hand-snipping each stem to bring in the first crop of the season for the Mountain Mandarin Festival.

You will find fresh mandarins and unlimited samples at growers’ stands throughout the fairgrounds.  Local growers offer fresh fruit, gift baskets and a variety of fruit to taste. Throughout the festival growers are offering fresh oranges that are chocolate dipped, locally produced mandarin syrups, marinades and salad dressings, fresh mandarin milkshakes and gift packages available for holiday shipping.

All things mandarin

All of the festival food vendors will be offering at least one mandarin orange item on their menu. The mandarin orange will be an ingredient in mandarin BBQ pulled pork, mandarin orange gelato, mandarin-glazed chicken wings, authentic New Orleans beignets with mandarin marmalade, mandarin glazed kettle corn, almonds, pistachios and more. Last year’s favorites included chocolate-dipped fresh mandarins, mandarin milkshakes and mandarin fudge. That’s only a partial list!  Take a break for some creative concoctions featuring mandarin adult beverages or mandarin coffee drinks.

More than 200 vendors await

The Mountain Mandarin Festival is proud of the quality of artist-crafted gift items, jewelry, home accessories and food products available for visitors.  There will be more than 200 vendors at the 2012 festival as the outdoor exhibits and entertainment areas expand. Be ready to be tempted by everything from holiday gift and food items to home décor to sensory pleasures from mandarin-scented candles, soaps and spa products. Even with inclement weather, you will find plenty of indoor shopping!

Help for heavy loads and sore feet

Since the beautiful Gold Country Fairgrounds sits in a hollow with parking areas a long walk up the hill, the festival has arranged for transportation services to your car sponsored by Blood Source.  A loading zone will be designated in the upper parking lot. They will have a check-in booth near the mandarin growers where they will hold the bags of mandarins until visitors are ready to leave.  Donations will be accepted. Festival staff recommends that you purchase your bulk mandarins early in the day, drop them by the Boy Scouts delivery booth, and when you are ready, they will take your purchases to the parking lot.

Kitchen craft recipe contest prizes top $2,500 in value

The annual Kitchen Craft Recipe Contest is a favorite of festival attendees, and management is looking for your family’s favorite recipe that incorporates mandarin oranges.  The grand prize for the recipe contest this year is a set of Kitchen Craft cookware, valued at over $1900, and there are cash prizes for the top recipes in each category. You can get an entry form at MandarinFestival.com with all the details.

Entertainment and cooking demonstrations

Enjoy a great selection of live entertainment on three stages including NPR entertainer Sebastian Sidi’s Smokin’ Hot Piano. Catch Mandarin Rose, Sadie the Balloon Lady and musicians strolling around.  On the Mandarin Cooking Stage in the Armory Building, you can learn tricks of the trade as professional chefs demonstrate and samples from vendors are presented.

Mini Mandarin Grove – free kids’ activities

Kids of all ages will enjoy hands-on activities, contests, and will enjoy pretending with Circus Imagination. This area is also home to the Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom exhibits and shows. The Grove, located in Farrell Wren Park, will be a wonderful break for kids who are tired of following Mom and Dad around while they shop.

Sleep Train Express Train

For the best way to enjoy a day of shopping, taking in the entertainment and feasting, hop aboard the train for a guided tour of the festival. Engineer Ken points out where things are, interesting vendors, activities and food.  You can hop off and on at designated buildings.

Free flu shots

Free flu shots sponsored by Placer County will be available on Saturday and Sunday with festival admission in the Armory Building.

Placer County Sheriff K-9 demonstrations

Members of our K9 Team including Sheriff Shawn Rosner and his K-9 partner Jet will provide informative presentations and demonstrations of canine physical agility during the festival.

For more information on the Mountain Mandarin Festival and one-stop shopping for holiday mandarin oranges, visit www.mandarinfestival.com. For more information on the Mandarin orchards and purchasing after the festival visit www.mountainmandarins.com.

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