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Festival a celebration of talent, quirks & fruitcake

November 29, 2011

The Fruitcake Fairy, Sharon Avey, and revelers Jennifer Duncan and Mary Roper at last year’s Fruitcake Festival, which celebrated an “America’s got Fruitcake” theme. Photo courtesy Mary Roper

Independence residents are inviting community members from throughout the county to one of the holiday season’s funkiest festivities.
Residents and visitors are encouraged to find those old bell bottoms because it is back to the ’60s for this year’s Fruitcake Festival, scheduled for 6 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 10 at the American Legion Hall in Independence.
At the unique, unabashedly quirky, self-proclaimed world-renowned festival, residents will find outlandish costumes, live music, a talent competition and, of course, virtually every kind of fruitcake concoction and eggnog recipe ever attempted on this side of the Sierra.
Event organizer Mary Roper said this year is all about “Peace, Love and Fruitcake,” and festival-goers are encouraged to dress the part and work up a talent show routine that fits with the 1960s “Summer of Love” theme.
Roper said talent show contestants display everything from singing and lip syncing, to outlandish “talents” such as choreographed book stacking.
“We know that there are a lot of talented people in the Eastern Sierra and they can get up on stage and do whatever they want – but it is a family-friendly event,” Roper said. “The kids love to get up on stage and they really have fun, too. Of course the theme is ’60s, so we’re hoping for some acts to the music that was popular then.”
This year, Roper said organizers have a surprise in store for fruitcake fans, but wouldn’t elaborate.
Regardless of what organizers have in store for the “surprise,” they said nothing can ever upstage the centerpiece of this celebration, the fruitcake.
“Some people are really serious about their fruitcake, and a few years ago, when we were talking about not doing (the festival), some people got really upset,” Masters said. “In my opinion, you can’t really judge the best fruitcake, because there are so many varieties.”
That’s why organizers have come up with several unique categories for the fruitcake contest, including most solids, oldest fruitcake and farthest traveled fruitcake.
There is also a judges’ award, handed out by local Superior Court Judges Dean Stout and Brian Lamb. Roper said the judges’ award often goes to the fruitcake that best suits the year’s theme.
“Although there may be some fruitcakes on stage performing, most of them will be displayed on the long tables in anticipation of their review by seasoned judges that employ mechanical, empirical and philosophical techniques to select fruitcakes,” organizers said via press release.
New this year will be the soup kitchen sponsored by the Carson and Colorado Railway Co.
Roper said event organizers have seen people leave the festival early in past years to get food that isn’t infused with fruits and nuts. To curb that, Roper said Carson and Colorado offered to serve soup for $5 a bowl. “With some fruitcake and eggnog, you have a complete meal,” Roper said.
Roper said there may be a duel between two reigning fruitcake kings who each want dominion over the fruitcake realm of Independence.
The original fruitcake king, Jon Klusmire, who is in ways responsible for the event, was unable to attend the festival for the past two years, but will be donning his tie-dye for the 2011 festival.
In Klusmire’s absence, fruitcake fans crowned Brian Kostors king in 2010.
“I’ve heard Brian say he was born to be king,” Roper said, adding that she has heard Klusmire wants to regain his throne.
Though the event began as a simple gathering and sharing of fruitcakes and the people who love them, it has exploded in popularity over the years, garnering headlines in international publications and drawing visitors from beyond state borders.
“It’s odd because all the years are kind of blending together, there has been a lot of strange things that have gone on in that Legion Hall for the festival,” Roper said.
The Fruitcake Festival is free for those who bring a fruitcake o

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