April 5, 2023
For 45 years, the month of May has meant festival season in the community of Campbell.
In the late 1970s, the Campbell Chamber began hosting the Prune Festival, sponsored by Sunsweet Prune Company, formerly the California Prune and Apricot Growers Association. It was held at the Pruneyard Shopping Center and the Campbell Community Center field (before the track was constructed).
This two-day family-friendly event paid homage to California’s, the Santa Clara Valley’s, and more specifically, Campbell’s history as an agricultural hotspot for fruit growing, canning, drying and shipping.
Back when it was known as The Valley of Heart’s Delight, Campbell and much of the surrounding area was filled with fruit orchards. According to the blog For the Love of Apricots, “The early orchards were primarily planted with pears and apples. One large step toward Santa Clara County becoming a worldwide producer of fruit was made by the Frenchman, Louis Pellier, who introduced “la Petite Prune d’Agen”, the French prune, in 1854. When grafted onto the local wild plum rootstock, he produced the famous Santa Clara Valley prune that became the predominant fruit in the county within a few decades. Louis and his brother Pierre also founded the Mirassou Winery. Because of the Pellier brothers, California produces 99% of the nation’s prunes and 70% of the world’s prunes.”
The Prune Festival had many of the same attractions as Campbell’s current festivals, including arts & crafts booths, a variety of food, family attractions, and live music, including Bay Area phenomenon, the Joe Sharino Band.
In the 1980s, the festival held a baking contest, with kitchen appliances being awarded as top prizes. Obviously, a primary ingredient in every baked good had to be prunes. Catherine, Bay Area native and SicilianGirl.com blogger entered the contest in the 80’s, taking first place with her Italian-inspired Torta di Prugna (prune tort) and walking away with a Sunbeam Food Processor, which, as of the posting of her winning recipe in 2018, she was still using.
A popular attraction at the festival was Super Prune, the magenta mascot that wandered the streets representing the unappreciated and much snickered about dried plum. Numerous people had the honor of dressing up as Super Prune, including two past Citizens of the Year, Leonard Cino and Dr. Art Low. In the late 1990’s, Assembly member Evan Low interned at the Chamber when Betty Deal was Executive Director and is rumored to also have donned the Super Prune ensemble.
The San Jose Mercury News held a 10k run in March and Super Prune would participate in the race, handing out bags of prunes and promoting the upcoming festival in May. The photo shows Dr. Low dressed as Super Prune at one of the 10k races.
With the much-maligned prune being the central celebratory festival fruit, the event was ripe for jokes and wise-cracks, and they were many. In a May 2000 Metro article in which Betty Deal was interviewed about the Prune Festival, she was quoted as saying about these comedic dried-fruit jabs, “We’ve heard it all. We're just 'regular' Joes, we have a 'loose' lifestyle, our festival is a 'moving' experience."
In 2001, the California Prune Board decided to make the shriveled fruit more palatable by rebranding prunes as dried plums. They wanted the Chamber to change the name of the festival to the Dried Plum Festival. Instead, the Board of Directors decided to go with a Mardi Gras theme. Prunes were replaced with alligator on a stick and jazz, zydeco, Cajun, and swamp pop as the Prune Festival morphed into Boogie on the Bayou.
The Louisiana theme lasted about a decade, and the event underwent another, albeit lighter, rebrand thanks to an ongoing drought. When the nearby creek was dry and Campbell no longer had our ‘bayou’, the Cajun theme was dropped, and the event became Boogie on the Avenue as a nod to its location on East Campbell Avenue. In 2018, the event changed its name to Boogie: Campbell’s Music Festival, spotlighting the event’s multiple stages with local, live bands and musicians.
One thing that’s never changed is that the festival is always held in May (pandemics notwithstanding) and that it’s a great time filled with food and fun for friends and families from all around the Bay Area.
This year will be the 44th annual event (since Boogie is an offshoot of the Prune Festival, we kept the clock ticking) and will be held in Downtown Campbell Saturday, May 20th from 10am to 6pm and Sunday, May 21st from 10am to 5pm.
For more information on the Boogie Music Festival, visit CampbellBoogie.com