Morro Bay festival harbors some surprises

As the newly appointed director of the Morro Bay Harbor Festival, Steve Buffalo surveyed former directors, community businesses and past attendees to evaluate what made it work for 31 years. He also asked how it could be enhanced in 2012.

“I kept hearing from people returning each year, it was always the same,” Buffalo said. “So this year’s board was receptive to adding some surprises.”

Picture “Marionetta,” a woman with snake-like hair costumed in a medieval hooped gown and a skirt that rises to expose the next marionette performance strolling the grounds. She stands 14 feet tall. There will also be “living statues,” including the Living Floral Tree, a human climbing ivy.

Buffalo says the musical headliners Queen Nation are “the best Queen cover band out there” and recommends BarFlyz with Kenny Lee Lewis. Lewis plays guitar with the Steve Miller Band.

“There is an entrance fee for children this year; however, they won’t need additional tickets to enjoy most of the new interactive, imagination-driven activities,” Buffalo said. “We want the festival affordable for the entire family.”

The event will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Former Morro Bay Harbor Festival director Galen Ricard suggested to the board that Buffalo knew how to triage an event — especially successful events that needed refreshing. The owner of an events consulting business, Buffalo has spent 25 years coordinating large street fairs and festivals attracting 30,000 people, concert series and Rose Parade floats, and worked as the special events coordinator for the city of Palmdale. An avid visitor to the Central Coast, Buffalo was already familiar with area festivals.

Leading the festival this year is Jim Sanders, who continues as festival president; Steve Mathieu monitors site development with help from Donna Drum. Lori French coordinates the popular albacore barbecue and fishing-related activities for both Fishermen’s and Women Fishery organizations, while Paul Van Beurden continues to work with area eateries.

Rotary President Nancy Guthrie and Jonni Biaggini of the visitor alliance are new directors. John Solu’s watchdog team is back to handle money management onsite as Solu acts as board treasurer. Denae Gomez developed the seafood and wine pavilion with 35 plus wineries and eight-plus restaurants, with five eateries competing for best chowder bragging rights. Cheryl Wells is back booking local entertainment, and Anna Scott has joined as media coordinator. Don Doubledee has chalked the site layout for years and is now volunteer coordinator. Community nonprofits are paid to work the festival, creating a win-win for volunteers and festival operations. And office manager Caron Alexander keeps everyone focused.

Buffalo is confident, “The 2012 Harbor Festival will be a boatload of fun for the entire family.” Check it out at www.mbhf.com.

Judy Salamacha’s column is special to The Tribune. Reach her at judysalamacha@gmail.com or 801-1422.