4th Mole & Mariachi Festival

The Mole & Mariachi Festival is back and better than ever! Join the fun at Santa Cruz Mission SHP on Saturday, Sept. 10.

by Traci Hukill

Sept. 2, 2016—Next Saturday the courtyard at the Mission Adobe will overflow with families gathered under the big redwoods and avocado tree to see traditional Mexican dancing, hear mariachi bands, stroll through the colorful mercado and taste mole painstakingly prepared by home and restaurant chefs. While kids get their faces painted and take a whack at the piñata, grownups can enjoy an adult beverage or daydream about raffle prizes like an all-expenses trip to Los Cabos or a catered dinner for 12. Food tents will serve up platters of tacos, mole empanadas and tamales. There will be ice cream.

If past years are any indication, more than 4,000 people will come out for this celebration of Mexican culture and history, which also honors Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park’s 25th year as a state park and the 225th anniversary of the founding of Mission Santa Cruz.

Read about Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park and the Mission's history.

My, how it’s grown. When Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks threw the first Mole & Mariachi Festival in 2013 to raise money for the park (sometimes called Mission Adobe), some 1,200 people turned out to hear two mariachi bands play and sample mole from a handful of chefs. The organizers were thrilled by the turnout—and the festival has just kept growing. This year four mariachi bands will perform, 10 chefs will compete in the mole competition, seven food vendors will set up beneath the trees, and a solar trailer will power cooking and entertainment for several thousand festivalgoers streaming in from all over the county.

Read about the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Mole & Mariachi Festivals.

“When we first started this festival it was around saving the park and keeping it open, and the community rallied so amazingly that I thought, ‘This as good as it gets,’” says Bonny Hawley, executive director of Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks. “But it just gets better and better.”

The 4th Annual Mole & Mariachi Festival is Saturday, Sept. 10, 11am-5pm at the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, 144 School St, Santa Cruz. Details below. Schedule here.


Mighty Mole Makers This year’s competition features 2013 and 2014 champions El Jardin and 2015 champs My Mom’s Mole and home chef Emma Pinto going mano a mano with El Chipotle, El Chino, Taquitos Gabriel’s, Sunny’s Catering, Club Tuxpan, Lidia Montesino and newcomer Chocolate, whose mole chocolate truffles at the 2014 festival were off the charts. Taste and vote in the People’s Choice Awards! Tasting kits (6 tastes) are $10; extra tastes $2 each.

Lady Mariachis Mariachi Feminil Orgullo Mexicano, the Bay Area’s only all-female mariachi band, will perform. Mariachi Alma de Mexico will also play, as well as its Juvenil (teen) and Infantil (kiddie) divisions. Look for dancing by Senderos and Estrellas de Esperanza, always a big hit.

Giant Dancing Puppets The mojigangas are back!

Save Room! Mission Hill Creamery will serve up organic dulce de leche, Mexican chocolate and other delectable flavors of ice cream. Head ice creamologist Dave Kumec says that this year he and the churro maker are in cahoots; look for inventive churro-ice cream combinations.

Green Theme Not only will two of the chefs present green moles, but this will be a solar-powered, zero-waste event thanks to the generosity of Sandbar Solar and the expertise of The Offset Project, which is ensuring proper materials at the outset (like compostable cups and plates) and recycling.

Great Raffle Free trips, dinners, cruises, wine collections … see for yourself.

Refreshing Beverages Discretion Brewing and Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard will be pouring excellent beer and wine. Or try chavelas (beer, tomato juice and spices).

Celebrity Judges California’s Secretary of Natural Resources, John Laird—the official ultimately in charge of all state parks—is one of 10 mole judges this year. Look for enviro champ Assemblymember Mark Stone as well.

Parking The Mission area fills up very quickly. Better to park downtown and a) walk up the beautiful new tile mosaic staircase from Mission Street; b) take the free trolley from the Locust and Church garage; c) ride your bike and park it at the bike valet run by Bike Santa Cruz County.

What This Will Accomplish Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks took over operations of the Santa Cruz Mission SHP in 2012 to save it from closure after budget cuts. Proceeds from each year’s Mole & Mariachi Festival help keep the park open (it’s now open Thursday through Monday year-round) and fund upkeep. This year’s proceeds will help fund repairs to the 200-year-old adobe’s walls and floor.

Read more about Friends of Santa Cruz State Park