Capitola’s Final Begonia Festival

"Begonias Take a Bow!" - 2017 Capitola Begonia Festival Poster, by local artist, Lori Ann Tharp .

“Begonias Take a Bow!” – 2017 Capitola Begonia Festival Poster, by local artist, Lori Ann Tharp .

This Labor Day weekend, 2017, we celebrate the end of an era with “Begonias Take a Bow” – the 65th and final Begonia Festival.

The four-day flower and water Festival comes to a close this year, marking the last time thousands of people will flock to Capitola Village for the beloved Nautical Parade. It has been an iconic annual event since the 1950s, bringing together the best of this area’s community spirit, creative ingenuity, and colorful environment.

The begonia queen and her court, at the 1955 Begonia Festival. The last festival queen was in 1974. Photo courtesy of the Capitola Museum.

The begonia queen and her court, at the 1955 Begonia Festival. The last festival queen was in 1974. Photo courtesy of the Capitola Museum.

The parade took form back in 1952, as part of a Capitola Water Fantasy event that began after the city by the sea was officially incorporated in 1950. When locals learned that begonia blossoms grown by Brown Bulb Ranch would go to waste as the bulbs were prepared for market, they added the flowers to crowd-pleasing floats that traveled down Soquel Creek to the lagoon at Capitola Beach. Since then, begonia flowers, decorated floats, and the early fall festival have been some of Capitola’s main attractions. In 2017, the city adopted the begonia as the official city flower.

Begonia fields. Photo credited to Mike Higuet.

Begonia fields. Photo credited to Mike Higuet.

The Brown family-owned Golden State Bulb growers in Marina were the first and last of regional begonia fields supplying millions of flowers for the Festival. Golden State Bulb are retiring from the begonia business after 2017, but their donations over the years made the flower a recognizable symbol of Capitola and fun-in-the-sun. Despite its bittersweet end, the 65th Festival will be a spectacular finale, featuring all the activities and artistry that made past events so wildly popular.

Bill Lewis and his sculpture for the 2016 sandcastle contest.

Bill Lewis and his sculpture for the 2016 sandcastle contest.

The weekend festivities offer entertainment for everyone – music concerts, dance performances, rowboat races, a movie night, a fishing derby, and horseshoes on the sand. Visitors can view the float construction along Soquel Creek, and try their hand in the Sand Sculpture Contest on Capitola Beach. There are opportunities to participate by attaching flowers at the Begonia Mural, making chalk art on the seawall, and being adorned head-to-toe with begonias in Esplanade Park. Of all the weekend events, the most highly anticipated is the Nautical Parade.

"Inter-Galactic Begonia Explorer". Grand Prize Winner, 2016.

“Inter-Galactic Begonia Explorer”. Grand Prize Winner, 2016.

There are eleven teams building floats to compete in the 2017 parade. The Festival provides each team with a barge and access to handpick red, coral, pink, yellow, and white flowers at dawn in the private begonia fields. The teams will be building floats reflecting this year’s “Take a Bow” theme. Each one is structured with wood frames covered in chicken wire, and decorated with hundreds of heavy-stemmed begonia flowers. The barges are propelled by electric motor or manpower – pushed along with poles or watercrafts; pulled by paddleboards, rowboats, kayaks, canoes, and swimmers. The vibrant blossoms, playful designs, kinetic details and cast of characters makes each one a unique work of floating art.

Capitola will always be linked to begonia flowers, beachside festivities, and community art. Although the blossom-bedecked floats will pass under Stockton Avenue Bridge for the final time this Labor Day Sunday, the Begonia Festival’s lasting impact will no doubt inspire new traditions with similar values in years to come. In the mean time, Capitola’s shops, galleries, cafes, restaurants, and events are alive and kickin’ throughout the year.

The Nautical Parade

The Nautical Parade

Capitola Begonia Festival
September 1 – 4, 2017

Visit begoniafestival.com for a full schedule of Labor Day weekend events.


Limited Edition Begonia Inspired Collection

These limited edition Victorian shirts are only available for this, the final Begonia Festival season. make sure that you order yours early so that you have it for the festival! Once the festival is gone this begonia colored collection will be gone as well.


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