Local vendors and community members came together during the Long Beach Ube Fest to indulge in sweet ube treats and start off the holiday season on Dec. 4.
Ube is a purple sweet potato native to the Philippines which has a nutty and slightly vanilla-like taste and can be found in a number of Filipino desserts.
James Oreste thought of the event after brainstorming with friend Sheila Romey about possible business ventures.
She co-runs Sweet Threads, a curated children’s clothing boutique. Oreste decided that because their name had the word ‘sweet’ in it, she should do a desert pop-up.
“I was throwing some ideas around and I spurted out ‘let’s do an ube festival,’” Oreste said.
He said that he knew two people who used the ingredient in their baked goods and were willing to be a part of the event, so he asked other people to join. From there, two vendors turned into 10, and Ube Fest was born.
The first festival took place in October this year, and as a result of its unanticipated success, officials extended their lineup to 11 ube vendors, six market vendors, and an early access package so vendors wouldn’t sell out early in the event.
Early access lasted from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. and became open to the general public between 4 to 8 p.m.
“We thought maybe we could get 100 or 200 people, but we ended up getting between five to six hundred people the first time around,” Oreste said. “We weren’t prepared for that amount of people, so we decided to do it again to make up for the loss of the first one.”
They hope to continue hosting the event, adding new vendors, and taking current ones along with them as they move forward.
One shop that plans on attending the festival again is The Corner Stoop, a small–owned business that specializes in pastries, barbeque and catering. The business was started about three years ago and was created by the owner and chef Carissa Dintemann.
At the event, they sold ube white chocolate-dipped cookies in three different flavors: marshmallow graham, Meyer lemon oatmeal, and Janice’s Purple and Gold Corn Cookie.
“My partner (Janice) passed away two months ago, who I started the company with, and one of her cookies there is one of the last recipes that she’s done,” Dintemann said. “She did a lot of ube recipes growing up, so a lot of this is in memoriam of her.”
Ube Fest is one of the first events the company is attending after Dintemann’s partner’s passing, and she said that they’re excited to get back out and continue their business.
The festival received a turnout of over 2,500 people in attendance and many of the vendors sold out before the night was over.
The event was more than just about the flavor of ube, it was also about community and seeing that Filipino culture is “alive and well in Long Beach,” as the Ube Fest Instagram wrote.
“I didn’t have a full appreciation of it (ube) until I saw the excitement that people had, and also the way people in the community embraced ube, especially from different cultures, it was really exciting,” Oreste said.