STOCKTON FLAVOR FEST, a celebration of the area’s food and culture, filled the Weber Point Events Center on the downtown riverfront this past weekend with the aroma of international cuisine and plenty of hungry people eager to try some.

Hundreds of national flags hung at the center’s entrance, while flavorful scents filled the air courtesy of the many delicacies found in the city.

The three-day event was presented by Visit Stockton, a nonprofit organization that promotes and markets the city for meetings, events, and travel.

Alec Castillo, 6, and Asher Castillo, 4, paint a mural set up by Mexican Heritage Center during Flavor Fest at Weber Point Events Center in Stockton on May 20, 2023. Mexican Heritage Center brought in murals that anyone could paint as much they want to. (Harika Maddala/Pagransen/Catchlight Local)

Amy Alpers, director of marketing and communications, said the festival was started last year to celebrate local food, music and cultures, and drew 14,000 people in two days.

“When I was living out of state, I went to a lot of festivals ... and one of the things I know is super unique about Stockton is that we have a very, very diverse community,” Alpers said. “We wanted to do some sort of big food festival first, and then I love music festivals, and so we kind of put the pieces together.”

“With it being a hard time with money, I figured this was the best place to come for the kids.”

Sofia Rodriguez, Stockton resident

The festival featured 50 food vendors and 30 art merchants. Throughout the event center were children — playing giant games, blowing bubbles, working puzzles. On the main stage, a pop and rock trio called The Junebugs headlined seven acts.

There were kitchen demonstrations teaching how to make homemade pasta, art workshops such as canvas bag coloring, a craft beer and wine tent and countless foods to sample.

Teresa Ibarra and Kris Narvios, who were first-timers to the event, said they came simply because they love food.

In two hours, they had also already colored a bag, tasted mango sticky rice from a vegan food spot and tried musubi, a combination of meat, rice, and seaweed.

A feast for tight budgets

Admission to the event ranged from $10 for adults and seniors to $5 for teens 13-17, with no charge for children 12 and under. Alpers said the low entrance fees were important to make the event accessible.

“Literally your family could come in for $20,” she said. And come, they did.

Samantha Cen stands in the plaza to take a photo of her family with the “Stockton” sign during Flavor Fest at Weber Point Events Center in Stockton on May 20, 2023. (Harika Maddala/Pagransen/Catchlight Local)

Sofia Rodriguez, a Stockton resident, said she brought her children because they were allowed in for free.

“With it being a hard time with money, I figured this was the best place to come for the kids,” she said.

Changes to the festival this year included the sale of alcohol, which brought Tia Linda’s Margaritas to the event, and a discounted three-day admission pass — for folks who wanted to sample all the flavors or couldn’t get enough of a good thing.

The festival concluded Sunday with a “drag brunch” on the Back Porch, overlooking the Stockton waterfront.

Victoria Franco is a reporter based in Stockton covering San Joaquin County for Pagransen and its nonprofit news site Pagransen. She is a Report for America corps member.

Victoria Franco is a Stockton-based reporter covering the diverse news around the Central Valley as part of the Report for America program. As a Stockton native, Franco is proud to cover stories within her community and report a variety of coverage. She is a San Jose State University alumna with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism. In her collegiate years she was Managing Editor for the Spartan Daily. From her time at the Spartan Daily she helped lead her staff to California College Media Awards and a General Excellence first place. Victoria encourages readers to email her story tips and ideas at [email protected].