First-Ever Santa Cruz Mountain Mushroom Festival Brings Mushrooms to the Masses in California

First-Ever Santa Cruz Mountain Mushroom Festival Brings Mushrooms to the Masses in California

Seraiah Alexander
Seraiah Alexander
May 06, 2024
3 min

The Santa Cruz Mountain Mushroom Festival, hosted by Far West Fungi, made its debut this past weekend and fittingly commenced with a rainy first day. Mushrooms, after all, thrive in such moist conditions, making the weather a fitting start to a celebration of all things fungi. Undeterred by the weather, attendees maintained their passion and enthusiasm as they joined together to enjoy the events and meet with other like-minded fungi fans. Then, by Sunday, as if on cue, the sun broke through, and with it, festival-goers emerged in even greater numbers, sprouting up throughout the event with the same vigor as mushrooms after a refreshing rain, eager to partake in the array of activities planned for the day. 

The festival grounds at Roaring Camp were abuzz with people from all walks of life, from young children to amateur mushroom fans to expert mycologists, yet there was something for everyone. 

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While this celebration wasn’t the first major mushroom event in the area, it was definitely the first of it’s kind, featuring live music, food, drinks, and an activity for all, making it a true festival. 

“There are mushroom festivals popping up all over the US, and its high time California joined in, but we wanted a mega-event to really showcase and honor fungus, with all the added activities and entertainment. California is also a mecca for mycologists, herbalists and researchers who study fungi, so it makes sense to bring everyone together,” Erin Raser, director of operations and advocacy at Far West Fungi expressed to Edible Monterey.

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The several stages scattered throughout the festival hosted exciting speakers like Dr. Charles Lefuere, who spoke on truffles and their cultivation across North America, and mycologist Christopher Hobbs, who discussed the popularity and potential of medicinal mushrooms. These educational panels captivated attendees with topics ranging from at-home mushroom cultivation to psychedelic therapy to the latest advancements in mushroom science. 

Those looking for a more hands-on experience were able to engage in a variety of interactive workshops. One of the more popular offerings was the cultivation demonstrations, where participants were shown the different ways that they could grow their own mushrooms, from spore to harvest. Other workshops included painting with natural mushroom pigments and spore print creation. 

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Herbalist Jess Starwood led nature walks through the dense, towering redwoods, teaching guests how to identify local edible and medicinal plants. Meanwhile, younger participants delighted in mushroom-themed arts and crafts, games, and an interactive mushroom identification booth, all designed to educate and entertain.

A highlight of the event was the live music from local artists, creating memorable performances that festival-goers could enjoy while dining on mushroom-inspired dishes or wandering from one workshop to another.

The cooking demonstrations attracted droves of culinary enthusiasts eager to discover the culinary potential of mushrooms. The chef’s engaging presentations and mouth-watering tastings allowed participants to dive deeper into what mushroom cuisine has to offer.

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Many of the booths at the festival displayed an array of mushroom-themed art and products. Local vendors offered everything from handmade jewelry to t-shirts, mushroom grow kits, and medicinal mushroom tinctures. Additionally, several informative booths on psychedelic harm reduction provided valuable insights into responsible psychedelic use and education. Individuals with backgrounds in mental health care, substance use mitigation, and psychedelic product testing offered resources for those interested in responsibly exploring the therapeutic and spiritual benefits of psilocybin mushrooms. These professionals were available to answer questions, discuss safety protocols, and distribute educational materials that highlighted the importance of setting, dosage, and legal considerations.

The festival not only served as a place for learning and entertainment but also as a venue for networking and sharing knowledge within the mycological community. Attendees, ranging from hobbyists to professionals, exchanged contact information, shared their experiences, and discussed future collaborations. The overall sense of connection perfectly embodied the festival’s tagline: ‘Building community through fungi’.


Overall, the event ensured that everyone had a great time, regardless of their level of expertise or interest in mushrooms. “I love mushrooms. My family, not so much,” said Sylvia, a Santa Cruz native. “But hey, we all had a lot of fun today and learned something new.”

As the event wrapped up, the positive feedback was overwhelming. Many participants expressed appreciation for the perfect mix of educational content and entertainment. The success and positive reception of the first Santa Cruz Mountain Mushroom Festival has left the mushroom lovers of California eagerly looking forward to its potential annual occurrence.


Seraiah Alexander

Seraiah Alexander

Content Editor

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