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By Lena Katz

I’ve decided that autumn food and booze festivals are the calendar’s way of encouraging you to start packing on that winter weight. It dates back to caveman days. We should honor the cycle, by attending all the following festivals and indulging per program guidelines.

First up, the Monterey Beer Festival on August  2 from 12:30 to 5 p.m. Held at the fairgrounds, this one has 50 breweries pouring everything from bitters to Belgian, plus live music, food and other festivities. If you get bored with brews, there are a dozen wine tasting rooms right around the corner in Carmel and on Cannery Row. Pre-sale tickets cost $30 and include all the beer! Yeah! Good times.

Next up, from August 8-10, a healthy happy family fun festival! The Sunland-Tujunga Watermelon Fest is now in its 47th year, so obviously this one’s much more popular than you might assume. Highlights include a watermelon eating contest, a seed-spitting contest, a watermelon carving display and my personal favorite, the crowning of the Watermelon Queen. Oh, and there’ll be a kiddie carnival, petting zoo, arts and crafts, a food court and even a BEER GARDEN. (This is Los Angeles, after all. We’re never completely dry.) The $1 “suggested donation” ticket price includes all the free watermelon you can eat. Sunland Park Recreation Center, 8651 Foothill Blvd, Sunland. August 8, festivities start at 5 p.m.; on the 9th and 10th, they start at noon.

Over in Kentucky, they don’t mess around with melon. The annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival, taking place from September 16-21, 2008, in Bardstown, draws upwards of 50,000 people from every corner of the globe (but mostly from the heartland, we suspect). This festival’s schedule is insane and gets better every year — and yes, it is family friendly. There’s an art exhibit, a “Music on the Lawn” program, a car show, and a hot air balloon glow.  Sporting events include a 5K run, a golf tourney and a “Cornhole Classic” (I don’t understand, and don’t want to). Also, food booths and a kiddie play area will be open all weekend. However, most of the really good events — i.e. the  Master Distiller’s Auction and the Mixed Drink Challenge — are for grownups only. Definitely tour the Bourbon Trail while you’re there, and tour the production hubs for everyone from Jim Beam to Buffalo Trace to Maker’s Mark.

And just before that, on the calendar from September 12-14 way up in the Colorado Rockies, there’s the 15th annual Telluride Blues and Brews Festival. It’s a steep climb off the beaten tourist path, yes, but for blues fans, well worth the effort. Where else can you see the legendary Etta James while sipping on a New Belgium microbrew and glorying in Rocky Mountain views?  The program promises 150+ brews, late-night juke joint jams, an acoustic competition and of course a “green initiative.” (Green is ubiquitous in Colorado, especially when it comes to dining.) Other music headliners include Gov’t Mule, Joan Osborne, Susan Tedeschi and John Hiatt and the Ageless Beauties.

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Lena Katz lives on the Left Coast and writes about
tropical islands, beach clubs and food, but her heart belongs to NYC.

Tagged: California

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