Spam Festival, Isleton CA
Today we drove to Isleton for the 12th Annual Spam Festival. Spam is produced by Hormel in Austin, Minnesota, and every year there is a spam festival out there. We knew from the get-go that the Isleton festival couldn’t be as big as the Austin one, but honestly, you can’t even call what we saw today a festival.
The online information listed the events running from 10 am to 4 pm, including cooking contests, eating contests, music, and memorabilia for sale. We tried calling the Isleton Chamber of Commerce a few times, well in advance, to confirm this information. Both August and Zach called and left messages, and no one got back to us. We certainly wish someone had, because then maybe we would have known the truth about this “festival” and we wouldn’t have wasted our time and gas.
Sure, things started at 10 am… that’s when the local drinkers, motorcyclists, and biker gang members converged to drink in the lounge/bar/”casino card room” of a run down hotel. There was such camaraderie among everyone, you could tell they were all regulars who let each other get away with anything. (We have friends who ride motorcycles. We have nothing against motorcyclists. But some of the people in attendance here were the bad kind, with tattooed faces, strung-out eyes, and notorious and infamous patches on their leather vests.)
August had noted that the online information said only adults 21 and up were allowed inside the lounge and those younger could participate in “outside games.” The only outside games seemed to be smoking within very close proximity to business entrances (a no-no in California), drinking on the street alcohol that was purchased inside the lounge, and getting stared down by the surly crowd, none of which are kid-friendly activities. There was literally nothing to do outside. The street wasn’t blocked off, there were no vendors, and no stage(s) for the competitions or performers.
The door to the cooking competition area was locked for some reason, forcing us to walk though the lounge/bar/card room. Inside the lounge, once we passed the early morning drinkers and clouds of smoke, we got to the back room where the cooking competition was being set up. Immediately off-putting to Zach in the tiny room was the fact that the preparation, cooking, serving, and presentation stations were all in one – this is most definitely against health code to cook, serve, and present food on the same surfaces. Sorry, but we can’t eat food that has untrustworthy preparation.
Maybe if we had stayed around we would have seen the eating competition or the live music. The only memorabilia we saw for sale were spam logo t-shirts for $20. This was not kid-friendly, not welcoming, and not about spam. It was an excuse for the locals to party together. That’s totally fine, there’s pride in hometown celebrations. However, don’t call it what it isn’t. It wasn’t a spam festival, but essentially a private event for the owner of the establishment to make some money.