Festival raises funds for local scholarships, school groups and nonprofits

Published in the May 24 – June 6, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Staff Report

Photo courtesy Chiala family and Lori McIntosh
Above left: George Chiala enjoys time with his grandchildren Noa and Amelie Zands. Above right: George and Alice Chiala when he won the LEAD honor from Leadership Morgan Hill.

The Morgan Hill Mushroom Mardi Gras, a family-fun, two-day event, has been transforming Memorial Day weekend into a veritable festival of music, food, arts and entertainment, all in the celebration of the fun fungi and to raise money for scholarships.

“One hundred percent of our proceeds go toward education in our community,” said Sunday Minnich, festival executive director. “Without the support of attendees, sponsors and community, we would not be able to raise more than $80,000 to support our schools and students.”

Last year the organization raised $55,000 in scholarships, $7,500 in mini grants to MHUSD elementary and middle schools for special projects and $18,000 for school groups, clubs and nonprofit organizations for working the festival.

There will be some changes and additions to the 38th annual festival. Because of the construction of a park going in at the former Depot Street parking lot they usually use for a food, beverage and a stage, organizers had to make some changes to the layout this year.

Morgan Hill Life file photo
Two girls check out the mushrooms during the 2014 Mushroom Mardi Gras.

They moved the food court and stage to East Fourth Street and the beverage booths to the corner of Depot and Fourth streets. They are adding mimosas to the beverage menu and a second sangria booth. The Santa Clara County Cattlewomen’s Association and Mushroom Council will join sponsors Western Mushroom Marketing Council at the Mushroom Exhibit, handing out samples of blended mushroom and beef meatballs and free tote bags, as well as educating attendees on the health benefits of mushrooms and how they are grown.

Finally, the Morgan Hill FFA will also be helping in the Mushroom Exhibit and selling fresh mushrooms to raise funds for their program.

As they have for the past 37 years, festival-goers will listen to live entertainment on two stages, browse a variety of arts and crafts vendors with a special “Artists Section” for fine arts and quality crafts.

Photo by Marty Cheek
Erica Clarkson, visiting the Mardi Gras from Belmont, dances with Morgan Hill resident Maya Delacruz, age 6.

There will also be cooking demonstrations, strolling musicians, street performers and Munchkin Land. Also for the kids, Disney characters Elsa and Anna from “Frozen” and :Rapunzel: and Flynn Rider from “Tangled” will stroll the festival grounds.

“We try to make it a family-fun festival,” Minnich said. “We have everything from things for the adults to do, which includes live entertainment and plenty of shopping, to Munchkin Land for the kids, which has rides, games and kids attractions.”

Back for the second year is the premium wine tasting event as a separate, ticketed event held Saturday and Sunday starting at 11 a.m.

For $25 in advance or $30 at the door, visitors get 12 tastings for award-winning premium wines and a souvenir glass while relaxing in a private, elegant setting.

Photo by Marty Cheek
. Mary Seehafer and Tim Hennessey share a Mansmith steak sandwich at the Mardi Gras.

The Lost Boys, featuring James Durbin from American Idol, will headline the Amphitheater Stage Saturday and the Santana tribute band Caravanserai will headline Sunday.

The Mushroom Mardi Gras is the second largest event in Santa Clara County, drawing 70 to 80 thousand visitors during its two days. (The Gilroy Garlic Festival held for three days draws upwards of 95,000 guests.)

“I love it because it’s a great event, and it’s for a good cause,” Minnich said. “The majority of the funds we raise go to scholarships for high school seniors to further their education.”