Cocktail Corner: Tequila Harvest Festival

The 2014 Tequila Harvest Festival, photo by AM Premium Photography

The 2014 Tequila Harvest Festival, photo by AM Premium Photography

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

Our local schools may start next week, but the summer celebrations continue. More than 20 tequila and mezcal brands will be pouring at the 6th Annual Santa Barbara Tequila Harvest Festival on Saturday August 29.

This is the largest tequila show in California, and according to festival co-founder Ernesto Rodriguez, “The purpose of the festival is to promote the history, tradition, and art behind tequila production with the Anglo-Saxon and international community, as well as with the new generations of Mexican-Americans who are interested in learning more about these ancient and magical drinks.”

2014 Tequila Harvest Festival, photo by AM Premium Photography

2014 Tequila Harvest Festival, photo by AM Premium Photography

About 1,000 tequila aficionados are expected to gather at this elegant and festive outdoor event at Elings Park, 1298 Las Positas Rd. Featuring live mariachi music and gourmet food, and well as lots of tequila, other highlights at the Tequila Harvest Festival include unreleased and special edition spirits from Tequila CelestialG4, Siete Leguas, Suerte and Tapatío.

In addition,  a portion of ticket sales, as well as a special silent raffle, will benefit the Elings Park Foundation.

Ticket price includes all tequila/mezcal and food samples. This is strictly a 21 and over event. Tickets can be purchased at General admission hours are 6-9 p.m., with VIP tastings starting at 5 p.m. Hope to see you there. 

P.S: If you’re anything like me, talking about Tequila puts you in the mood for a Margarita. Here’s a recipe courtesy of Milagro Tequila.

The Milagro Freshest Margarita, courtesy photo

The Milagro Freshest Margarita, courtesy photo

The Milagro Freshest Margarita

 2 parts Milagro Silver Tequila

¾ part Agave Nectar

1 part Fresh Lime Juice

Pour all ingredients in a Boston Shaker with ice.

Shake vigorously and strain over ice in a rocks glass.

Garnish with a lime wheel.

Cheers!  Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

 Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on August 21, 2015.

Glow in the Park Benefit for Doctors Without Walls – Santa Barbara Street Medicine

Glow in the ParkJust when you think we’ve had every kind of fundraiser you can imagine, someone comes up with something new. This time the creative group is Doctors Without Walls – Santa Barbara Street Medicine, a nonprofit dedicated to providing free, volunteer medical care for the homeless and underserved population in Santa Barbara.

Adventurous participants will assemble atop Elings Park to take healthcare to new heights on September 13. Doctors Without Walls – Santa Barbara Street Medicine (DWW-SBSM) invites the community to take part in an extraordinary experience, right in their backyard. The evening includes a memorable tethered hot air balloon rides, for those who attend the reception, as well as a relaxing meal overlooking the ocean before a dance party amongst the stars.

The evening commences at 4:30 p.m. with an exclusive VIP reception, complete with tethered hot air balloon rides, hors d’oeuvres, and bar. Hosts will be given the special opportunity to thank generous sponsors in an intimate setting as all prepare for the spirited evening ahead.

Glow in the Park opens to all members of the community at 6 p.m. where a gourmet, custom catered field dinner accompanied by signature drinks will be served. Several glowing hot air balloons will illuminate the celebration as the sun begins to set and dinner is savored.

The evening will continue with an AfterGlow dance party with a performance by Hollywood U2, a Los Angeles-based rock band known for their likeness to U2! A heavenly dessert bar paired with Champagne will bring the evening to its peak.

DWW-SBSM saves valuable community resource by providing free, humanitarian medicine for the most vulnerable in the Santa Barbara community. There is a communal understanding of the importance of taking responsibility for our neighbors. “[To combat homelessness] can’t be a cookie cutter approach, and it must be collaborative,” states Mayor Helene Schneider. “We are unique when it comes to our philanthropic community. I like to tease that there are only two degrees of separation in Santa Barbara.” It is this closeness that the DWW-SBSM team relies upon to enable their continued service to the underserved.

“We hope you’ll join us for this special evening in honor of the volunteer doctors in our community, in order to further the essential care that they provide,” invites DWW-SBSM Executive Director, Maria Long. “We are so fortunate to live in such an engaged and enthusiastic community!”

For more information on DWW-SBSM visit For more information on Glow in the Park or to reserve your tickets, please visit

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on September 3, 2014.

Generation BMX

Young racers test their mettle with their pedals

Faster, higher and often younger than you might imagine, BMX racers are tearing up the dirt at Elings Park every Friday night.

Elings Park BMX (courtesy photo)

Elings Park BMX (courtesy photo)

The sport, which first became popular in the 1970s, is one of the fastest-growing competitions in the country, partially due to the popularity of the X Games and BMX-inspired DVDs, video and computer games. BMX (bicycle motocross) is scheduled to become an Olympic sport in 2008 and, according to Dale Bowers, track director of Santa Barbara BMX, there are three or four local bikers who “could be peaking” at that time.

Several local BMX racers will be competing in the National Bicycle League NBL Grands in Louisville, Ky., this weekend, including Logan Beebe, Chris Burke, Austin Davis, Michael Davis, Austin Hamilton, Jarrett Kolich Kolich, Amber Melgoza, Brianna Wiley and Jason Wiley.

While the level of expertise in Santa Barbara is high, Bowers emphasized that there’s a BMX skill level race for everyone, including beginners — and grownups. If you can ride a bike, you can BMX, which means there are some pretty impressive 5- and 6-year-olds out there.

Racers work their way up, depending on their age and how good they are, said Scott Berry, a 13-year-old La Colina Junior High student.

“I saw commercials on TV and really wanted to try it … we came up on a Friday night and just watched,” he said. “I just liked what I saw and wanted to try it.”

Bowers recommended that interested families follow Scott’s lead: just come to the track and check it out. “It doesn’t cost anything to come in and watch. Not much you can do for free on a Friday night, and its exciting entertainment.”

For participants, too, BMX is very affordable, said Scott’s mother, Debbie Carder.

It costs $45 per year to join the NBL, with a 30-day trial membership available for $30 (which is credited toward the full membership). Races, which take place most Fridays beginning at 6 p.m., are $8, and practices, at 6 p.m. Wednesdays, are $5.

“They’re so helpful, too,” emphasized Carder. “Even the older kids … they take the time to help the little ones. They go out of their way. They’re not snotty. They just take them under their wing … without being asked. It’s kind of like a family in a way.”

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

Elings Park fills in blanks with new capital campaign

After its impressive conversion from an old city dump to a bucolic multiuse park with one of the best views in town – financed solely by donations from the community — Elings Park is looking to secure its future by appealing to the public once again.

The next time you go to walk your dog, paraglide, jog, ride your bike, picnic, play soccer, paint, attend a wedding, visit the BMX track or softball fields at the park, you’re likely to be greeted by an Elings supporter requesting donations to help the nonprofit foundation raise the $126,700 it needs to maintain its 364 days a year/from 7 a.m. till sunset level of service.

Unrestricted operating capital — as opposed to money for specific projects — is the hardest kind of money to raise, but it’s also the most critical, said executive director Mike Warren.

“We’ve been running at a deficit for three years, so we’re flirting with disaster,” he said. “If 5,000 people gave us just a little over $25, like $27.30, we’d be there.”

In addition to trying to raise money for operations, Warren has his plate full with plans for the third phase of the park, the lower 23 acres on the left as visitors enter off Las Positas Road. The plan — which includes an international size all-weather soccer facility, an 11,500-square-foot community center, a permanent BMX track, basketball, handball and volleyball courts, and permanent park office space with four additional offices to rent — is undergoing city review now and ready to begin the environmental impact report phase, said Warren. He roughly estimated the total project cost would be about $14 million and the development would happen in phases, as did the earlier growth of the park.

“Phase three or the development of the lower plateau will complete the original 97 acres of what we lease from the city,” said Warren.

Also eventually in the works is what is known as “South Park,” the old Jesuit property above Cliff Drive that currently is zoned by the county for residential and light agricultural use. Jeff Elings Drive and a small parking lot were built earlier this year to allow access to the property from Cliff Drive. Right now the plan is just to continue to use the property “as is” for passive recreational uses such as hiking, mountain biking and paragliding, Warren said.

For more information on the “Elings is MY Park!” campaign and upcoming events at the park, call 569.5611 or visit

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on August 19, 2004.