By the time the last kale chip had been gobbled up and the hot sun sank towards the horizon, 337 people had sauntered through Santa Cruz's first annual Kale Fest.
Held at the Homeless Garden Project's vast garden and kitchen facility on the west side of town, the festival was a loving, scrumptious homage to that leafy green that some think should become Santa Cruz's signature vegetable.
"I think kale is, in a way, to Santa Cruz what artichokes are to Castroville. It's a way of life here," said Seth Heitzenrater, a volunteer with the Homeless Garden Project.
Anybody who may doubt the splendid possibilities of kale, would have been made a believer at the Kale Fest.
Jozseph Schultz of India Joze was on scene with a few skillful helpers, pumping out servings of kale chips, a kale mango lassi drink, kale pakoras (an Indian fritter) and calzones stuffed with kale and mushrooms.
There was also live screen printing (of a kale design) by Lucas Elmer, kale cooking demonstrations, and several local acoustic bands, including the bluegrass band North Pacific String Band which played last and inspired dancing among festival goers of all ages.
"It was a tremendous success," said Kelly Mercer, volunteer coordinator at the HGP. "We couldn't have asked for better weather and we couldn't have asked for a better turn out."
Mercer gave festival goers farm tours, and said she enjoyed "just being able to talk to community members about what we do here and how they can get involved and ."
Chef Jamie Smith mixed up some delicious, simple, "really easy" kale salads in the HGP kitchen facility. Smith is in charge of the public school lunches in Santa Cruz, and says it's actually not that hard to get kids to eat kale.
With a little preparation, (), kale can be delicious. It has more vitamins than an orange, is high in cancer fighting properties, and "when you chew it that's when the enzymes are released," said Mercer, who hopes that many more kale fests will follow in the years to come.