French settlers and explorers initiated Mardi Gras traditions in America as far back as the early 1700s. The customs of the Mardi Gras continue to spread, allowing residents in communities throughout the United States to celebrate their own individualized Mardi Gras festivities. San Jose residents have the opportunity to enjoy their own Mardi Gras celebration at the annual Morgan Hill Mushroom Mardi Gras Festival.
The Morgan Hill Mushroom Mardi Gras Festival runs in San Jose every Memorial Day weekend. The festival celebrates mushrooms, an important crop in the San Jose region. During the festival, participants taste fresh mushrooms that grow locally, learn about mushroom cuisine and have opportunities to obtain information about the health benefits of mushrooms.
Families and individuals gather in downtown Morgan Hills for the Mushroom Mardi Gras Festival. There is no admission for the festival and free parking is provided. The two-day festival takes place over the Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend with activities at the Outdoor Community Center Amphitheater and nearby on Depot Street between Dunne and Third streets.
People attending the festival have the opportunity to taste a variety of foods at food booths, both gourmet food and and simple fare, all of which feature mushrooms. Other festival activities consist of a wine and beer garden, an arts and crafts fair and an antique show. There are rides, games and entertainment for kids. Festival entertainment includes street performers, strolling magicians and live musicians who play a variety of music genres on two stages.
Proceeds from the Morgan Hills Mushroom Mardi Gras Festival go to support the efforts of the Mushroom Mardi Gras. The Mushroom Mardi Gras is a registered non-profit organization which provides educational scholarships to Morgan Hill Unified School District seniors who need financial assistance for college. The festival also supports other organizations and clubs by providing booths at the festival for their own fund-raising efforts or paying for their volunteer services at the festival.