A Honey of a Festival, and an Inaugural Festival at That!

May 16, 2017

It was indeed a honey of a festival.

When the inaugural California Honey Festival buzzed into Woodland on Saturday, May 6, organizers figured attendance might total around 3,000.

No. It did not. It tallied about 20,000, according to organizer Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center.

And this was the inaugural one! Next year is the second annual...

The festival was all about honey, bees, and beekeepers. Just as the queen bee reigns in a colony, bee products reigned at the festival:  honey, honeycomb, beeswax candles and bee pollen.

The mission, said Harris, was "to promote honey, honey bees and their products, and beekeeping through this unique educational platform, to the broader public."

A key attraction was Apis Inlusio, a sculpture art car designed to look like a bee. Built for the 2013 Burning Man Festival, it is based in San Francisco.

Another key attraction was the colorful walk-around-bee character (inside was Benji Shade of the Woodland Christian School). Photographers considered her very "bee-coming."  Teacher Jessica Hiatt did the talking (bees don't talk).

Visitors learned about bees, honey and beekeeping; sampled honey; tasted mead at the Mead Speakeasy; watched cooking demonstrations, listened to the speakers, danced and tapped to live entertainment, and browsed the dozens of vendor booths. UC Davis was represented by six exhibits: Department of Entomology and Nematology, Bohart Museum of Entomology, Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven (a bee friendly garden),  Art-Science Fusion Program, graduate students (research posters), and the California Master Beekeeper Program, managed by the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis.

Margaret Lombard, chief executive officer of the National Honey Board, based in Firestone, Colo., was among those speaking on the Beekeeper Stage, one of five stages at the festival.

Among the other speakers:

  • Billy Synk, director of Pollination Programs for Project Apis m., Paso Robles, and former manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility;
  • Elina Niño, Extension apiculturist based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
  • Vicki Wojcik, research director of Pollinator Partnership, San Francisco
  • Gene Brandi of Gene Brandi Apiaries, Los Banos (he is active in the California State Beekeepers' Association, the American Beekeeping Federation and the National Honey Board)

Bernardo Niño of the Elina Niño lab kept busy answering questions how how to become a beekeeper and how to become a master beekeeper.

The California Honey Festival is over, but there's another activity on the bee horizon: The 40th annual Western Apicultural Society meeting, set from Sept. 5-6 in Davis, where it all began. Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen, one of the co-founders, is serving his sixth term as president. It's an educational conference that's open to all interested persons who want to learn more about bees and beekeeping.