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  • Growing Calif. pizza festival hopes to rival state's garlic festival

LEMOORE, Calif. -- Thousands were on hand April 26 for the third-annual Central Valley Pizza Festival.

According to the Hanford Sentinel, though centered on pizza, the festival is a means for the area's agricultural community to showcase products grown in the area, such as vegetables, cheese, grains and tomatoes -- all of which are integral to pizza.

Laura Thompson Martin, chief executive officer of Lemoore District Chamber of Commerce, told the Sentinel that nearly 50 vendors participated in the day-long outdoor festival. The highlight, the report said, was a 16-team competition to form a giant pizza. Each team contributed its own unique -- if not exactly traditional -- slice to the group pie.

"The winning team was the Lemoore Downtown Merchant Association's slice -- they built a naval air carrier," Martin said. "It's a serious competition. It was tough (to pick the winner) because there were some good slices."

Martin said the main rule was that no matter what the team's design, the pizza had to be edible.

Some slices were beach-themed, while several others featured patriotic themes.

Once assembled as a whole, the Lemoore volunteer firefighters covered the nine-foot pizza with cheese dropped from a fire engine ladder extended 55 feet above the ground. The pizza then was taken by forklift to Major Brothers Powder Coating, where it was cooked in a giant oven.

"It's the biggest event in Lemoore," Martin said. "It just continues to grow and get better."

Martin said the Chamber's goal is to build Lemoore's festival to the level of Gilroy, Calif.'s, annual garlic festival, a multi-day event attracting garlic lovers from all around the U.S.

"We are on our way. They started really small just like we did," Martin said. "We do want to make the Pizza Festival a multi-day event and add more to it."

"There are a lot of things that need to be worked on, but that is the goal."

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