The pomegranate, a fruit that has garnered headlines in recent years for its health benefits, is to be honored with its own festival. Central California to hold pomegranate celebration

The week-long first Madera Pomegranate Celebration & Festival is scheduled Oct. 29-Nov. 5, said Debi Bray, president and chief executive officer of the Madera District Chamber of Commerce, Madera.

Madera County is in the heart of California’s San Joaquin Valley — stretching from the valley floor east into the Sierra Nevada Mountains and includes Yosemite National Park.

To lure tourists to the valley floor, the chamber created in 2010 a tourism alliance committee, which gave birth to the pomegranate festival, Bray said.

“We’ve been very pleasantly pleased with the number of sponsors who’ve come aboard,” she said.

Sponsors include two Madera-based pomegranate grower-shippers, Stellar Distributing Inc. and Stiebs, Bray said.

The timing is perfect for the Madera County pomegranate deal, said Casey Hollnagel, salesman at Stellar Distributing.

“Because we’re at the northern end of the growing region, we’re kind of the last game in town,” he said. “The cooler nights towards the latter part of deal give us good color and good size.”

November is the peak pomegranate harvest period for Stellar, Hollnagel said.

Starting with a five kilometer run Oct. 29, events are scheduled daily through Nov. 5 at the Appellation California Wine Tasting & Visitors Center, Madera.

A National Pomegranate Recipe contest is under way with prizes for best recipe by a home cook, best recipe by a food professional and best pomegranate beverage/cocktail.

Contest details and entry forms are available at

Though 2011 will be the inaugural Madera Pomegranate Celebration & Festival, the word is apparently spreading through its website,

“We already have participants coming from San Diego up to the Bay Area,” Bray said.