Introduction to the festival
This year’s Silicon Valley Fall Festival took place on Sept. 10 in Cupertino’s Memorial Park. Created by Cupertino’s Rotary Club over 20 years ago,the event has gone through many changes. It began as Oktoberfest, a drinking event.
Since then, it has evolved into the colorful and exciting blend of both traditional and Silicon Valley cultures that make up the city of Cupertino. From a classic children’s train ride and carnival games to a robotics competition, the festival brings multiple aspects of Cupertino and Silicon Valley together for a day.
After The Grateful Dads walked off stage, finished with their set of American songs from the fifties, a woman wearing a purple gown dotted with shimmering jewels walked on stage. From the moment she introduced herself to the crowd to the last few words to exit her mouth, she radiated positivity.
Lynda Haliburton, or Sister Lynda, is a minister of the gospel who sings spiritual songs — praises — in order to give God glory.
“My identity is in Christ Jesus and my purpose in life is to make him happy because of how good he’s been to me,” Haliburton said. “The lyrics make all the difference: if the words don’t inspire me spiritually, I don’t get a lot out of it.”
She began this passion as a little girl. Her mother and father placed her within the choir at their first church in Philadelphia, and she’s been singing ever since.
In 1979, following her parents footsteps, she moved from Philadelphia to the Bay Area, and she’s been living here ever since. She doubts she’ll ever leave.
“I like to travel, but I always like to come home.” Haliburton said.
She has attended the Silicon Valley Fall Festival for seven years, always delighted to sing praises to God for others to enjoy and find significance in. Over time she found herself witnessing a gradual change in the festival — the decline of people who attend. It saddens her to see less of a crowd as each year passes by despite all the hard work put into the Fall Festival
She stood at the edge of Memorial Park’s parking lot, where the food trucks began to close for the day. With a smile on her face she was talking to the volunteers.
Judy Wilson, an avid Rotary member for 10 years, is the president of the Cupertino branch of the community service and volunteering club.
She’s been attending the festival since she became a member and recalled its development over the years from a “drinking event” to a family-oriented festival. She said the event’s current state emphasizes family and community.
Wendell Stephens, the previous president and Rotary member for over 20 years, said the evolution of the festival was slow and steady, but that the end result was worth it. The original Oktoberfest was popular, but Stephens believed that was due to the school performances held there.
After attempting to make the festival more family-friendly, Rotary just kept adding on.
“We had a cultural fair and we blended that in,” Stephens said. “Now we’ve got culture and robotics and public service and some retail.”
This expansion had increased both public and community interest, which increased expenses.
“It takes a lot of effort, you know, lots and lots of volunteers,” Wilson said.
Wilson walks over to the stall where Stephens and fellow Rotary club member Tom Dyer are.
They may be at a smaller, less popular stall, but Stephens and Dyer are an important part of the organization that makes the fall festival happen. Dyer, a member for 12 years, explains that the fall festival isn’t just a great way to foster community bonding, but it’s also serves as fundraiser helping the community out in various ways.
When Eaton Elementary School opened up, the club donated $25,000 to pay for their library books. The same amount went to West Valley Community Services, the senior center and plenty of other community-based organizations to help them get stronger.
Elena, Claire, and Juliet sit on the ground facing their robot as they peer inside at its guts, trying to fix a problem with the machine. Wrench in hand, Juliet dives in, determined to repair whatever needs assistance before the robot goes onto the course.
They’re part of an all-girls robotics team housed at NASA and sponsored by Girl Scouts, hence the name of the organization: Space Cookies.
This group has members from 32 different high schools around the Bay Area, competing often. They normally participate in two regional competitions per year; last year the team attended both the Silicon Valley regional and Venture regional, events in which different teams compete against one another for a chance to advance to nationals and earn scholarship money.
Rachel, a sophomore attending Palo Alto High School and a second year Space Cookies member, considers the Fall Festival as practice for the real-deal competitions. The robotics season officially begins in January, giving them about six weeks to receive a prompt, build a robot to compete against others with, and possibly qualify for nationals. But for now they are preparing at the Fall Festival.
Having participated in the festival before as a member of Space Cookies, she believes the event helps their team familiarize themselves to the soon-to-be competition while also being a way for young girls to take an interest in the organization.
Monta Vista Robotics Team
The sound of whirring and cheering attracts a crowd to a small space just off of the now-dry Memorial Park lakes. Small children sit on the grass while their parents stand off to the sides watching robots twist and turn as they maneuver around the obstacle course.
The robotics obstacle course at the Fall Festival is a recreation of a course created by First Robotics Competitions, an organization that designs robotics competitions for teams around the country. The course, called Stronghold, gives teams six weeks to build a robot that can conquer a series of obstacles and shoot a ball through goals of various heights.
At the Fall Festival, MVHS Robotics and the other invited teams (Lynbrook, Cupertino and Space Cookies) have an opportunity to practice with their robot in a live setting and have friendly competitions with local teams.
The practice also allowed MVRT to smooth out any problems and play around with their robot. This was especially helpful to MVHS’ team, who had to tackle numerous technical difficulties throughout the day. Despite the trouble, Director of Public Relations, Junior Sameer Kapur, believes the team’s purpose at the festival wasn’t to do the best, but to get practice.
“This is just a friendly scrimmage match,” Kapur said. “We’re doing a few games with the community, so we’re not really competing against other teams. We’re doing it for the fun and for robotics.”
Four young faces flashing pearly whites were spotted from afar. They stood behind a stand covered up and down with art supplies; pieces of brightly colored paper, glue sticks, yarn, cotton balls and of course shimmering glitter scattered the white surface of the table.
Madelyn, Isha, Ashika and Anika have known each other since the first grade, ever since becoming Daisies within their Girl Scout troop. Together they now hold Junior positions and together these fifth graders from Regnart Elementary were participating in the Silicon Valley Fall Festival.
“I brought all the supplies and all of these girls ran the booth.” said Connie Wilson, a volunteer for Girl Scouts.
They grabbed the attention of all children passing by with their arts and crafts activities. Several craft animals were spotted lying around the messy table, and when asked their favorite creations the girls’ responses were quick and full of pride. The sheep and mice turned out to be winners.
Alongside Troop 60910, four other groups stood guard that day, spanning from fifth graders to seniors in high school. Their goal was simple: recruit as many new members as possible.
It seemed to be going well despite Girl Scouts never having participated in the festival before. Various girls had swung by, exciting the team with every new face.
Global Youth Philanthropy
Kevin Gao, a student at Los Altos High School, fiddled with an informational pamphlet as he explained how he came to hear about the Global Youth Philanthropy .
His piano teacher told him about it. Interested by the global aspect of the organization, Gao decided to join, and has been heavily involved for the past two years. The group is mainly made of high schoolers who participate in meetings, events and concerts the organization holds in order to rack up donations. The money earned is then given children around the world who don’t have the resources they need.
This was Gao’s first time at the Silicon Valley Fall Festival, but the organization had participated in the event for three years making this the organization’s fourth time attending the festival.
The purpose of its booth at the festival was to hand out pamphlets, inform people of its club and ask strangers for money all for the sake of making the world a better place. This year the group is sending donations to orphans in Bolivia who can’t afford education or other necessary resources.
In order to experience the reality of some of the children’s live firsthand, some members went on a trip to Bolivia. Not only did they realize the extremity and severeness of certain living conditions, they came to a realization of the important impact Global Youth serves to different communities.
They were helping make a difference.
Canine Companions For Independence
Lilybell sits obediently beside her owner Nancy Hingston as she watches people pass by, wagging her tail slightly as someone approaches her, excited for a good petting in store. Some come up to take pictures and others for a touch of her blonde fur, but all who set eyes on her get a good laugh.
She’s sporting sunglasses; they sit on her small face bobbing up and down as she walks slightly to sniff the ground or hands of those who reach out. She serves as an effective draw of attention for the booth Canine Companions for Independence had set up. The organization provides highly trained assistance dogs for people with disabilities other than blindness.
The dogs they provide are worth about $50,000 but are completely free to those who apply through generous donations made to Canine Companions through events such as the Fall Festival and fundraisers such as their annual Dog Fest.
Canine Companions has been attending the festival for three years, hoping to raise awareness and recruit potential puppy raisers, the same goal they’ve had for the past forty-three years.
“We’ve talked to several people that are potential applicants for our dogs,” Cortez said.
She believes the booth to have a great impact for both their organization and those eligible for a supportive companion, but the booth also brings simple joy to the community: an abundance of cute dogs to gush over and pet.
Euphrat Museum at De Anza College
Little cubes of multi-colored clay lay scattered across the tables at the Euphrat Museum’s booth while Victoria Sanders, who has worked at the museum for three years, bends over to pick them up.
First opened in 1971 as an art gallery at De Anza College, the Euphrat Museum transformed into the cultural and artistic center it is today in 1992. Since then, it has provided the Cupertino, Sunnyvale and Los Altos communities access to art that reflects the changing demographic and diversity of their populations.
Now, the museum takes art to elementary and middle schools in the form of after-school art programs and projects.
The Euphrat Museum, which shares close ties with Cupertino, has been coming to the fall festival longer than Sanders can remember. This year, the booth worked with children (and adults) to transform clay into multicolored pins that they can take home.
Nestled in a shrubby corner of the fall festival is a small forest of bonsai trees and jade-colored figurines. Shining on the tables next to it are statuettes and ornaments of various sizes, all carrying the look of worn pottery.
This is local business Asian Link’s first year at the fall festival. Flora Wang, the daughter of the man in charge of the booth, is helping her father out for the day.
“I love the people but [there’s] not too much business though,” Wang said.
She admits that the location is not fit for their business model. The dozen or so bonsai trees being sold cost a couple hundred dollars each, a price higher than other products at the small festival.
Despite the lack of costumers, Wang appreciates the community atmosphere of the festival, but doesn’t think that the business will be returning next year.
“The profits are not really fit for this location,” Wang said.
Dil Se Indian Eatery
and other places to eat...
At 4:00 P.M. when the rest of the food trucks had shut their windows, only one remained open and eager to serve new customers.
It was Dil Se Indian Eatery, housed in an inviting orange truck that served an appetizing and popular menu at the festival.
Raj Singh, who works at the truck, found that though the day wasn’t anything special money-wise, he enjoyed himself at the festival and will probably return with the truck next year.
Raj’s brother Lucky also enjoys working on the truck, but hopes to settle down within the next couple of years. Still, he feels like working on the truck is worth the time and energy.
“It’s a lot of run-around but you know, it’s worth it,” Singh said. “We always try to have fun.”
Right across from the truck is Maui Wowi, a small Hawaiian-themed smoothie stand selling juice mixtures ranging from Strawberry Banana to Pina Colada. (The Mango Orange comes highly recommended). Lighting up the black pavement, the spirit that Maui Wowi brought to the festival was undeniable, despite the stand’s miniature size.
Whether it be watching robots skid across a blacktop, enjoying music performances, or sneakily prancing behind a dog with sunglasses, the Fall Festival is as an event meant to bring the community together. Its purpose is to bring about joy.
“It’s a wonderful family event, it’s very secure, it’s very accommodating, everybody should come,” Sister Lynda said as she walked past people packing up their booths for the day.
More pictures from the festival: