Conaway Ranch was set aglow on the evening of October 13, as over 200 guests gathered for the highly anticipated Global Rice Fest Founders Night. Hosted by Yolo Food Bank in partnership with the City of Woodland and The Food Front, and with the founding sponsorship of Conaway Preservation Group and supporting sponsorships from Nugget Markets and Visit Woodland, the event offered a glimpse into the festival planned for 2024.
The Global Rice Fest Founders Night gathered guests from varied backgrounds including leaders from the rice, food, and agricultural industries, higher education leaders, farmers, elected officials, Yolo Food Bank board members, donors, volunteers, and community members. The night featured global music entertainment along with mouthwatering rice dishes from the following featured chefs: Chef Santana Diaz, UC Davis Health; Chef Craig Takehara, Binchoyaki; Chef Juan Barajas, Savory Café; Chef Greg Desmangles, Urban Roots and Chef Gene Hall from Preserve. Along with great food, the event showcased global music and entertainment featuring the UC Davis student-run Taiko drummers, Bakuhatsu Taiko Dan.
“We are so grateful to all of the generous sponsors, in-kind donors, and chefs that made this event a joyful celebration,” noted Karen Baker, executive director of Yolo Food Bank. She added, “Rice is a staple food bank product and a highly desired item by our families from diverse cultures.”
Conaway Preservation Group, the founding sponsor of the night, has been partnering with Yolo Food Bank for over a decade. The idea to donate rice to Yolo Food Bank was sparked when Angelo Tsakopoulos, one of the region’s most widely recognized philanthropists and benefactors, and the late Jack DeWit, Yolo County Deputy Agricultural Commissioner at the time, sat down and sketched the partnership on the back of a paper napkin.
“Our enduring partnership with Yolo Food Bank that began more than a decade ago is taking off to new heights thanks to the Global Rice Fest which Conaway Preservation Group is proud to be founding sponsors of,” said President & CEO of Conaway Preservation Group Kyriakos Tsakopoulos. “We are providing a four-year sponsorship as it continues to expand into a two-day event in the coming year. At Conaway Ranch, our tenants are not only generous farmers, but also stewards of the environment and the wildlife supported here, making us a fitting backdrop for a celebration of rice, a crop that nurtures both people and nature."
The Global Rice Fest Founders Night served as a launching pad for sponsors, industry leaders, and community leaders to come together around a shared vision for 2024. Next year, the Global Rice Fest is planned for October 4-5, and will feature a Sponsors Night at Conaway Ranch on the first night, and a family festival the following day.
“Day two of the Global Rice Fest is set to be a family event, and will be held at the Woodland Community College’s new Culinary and Performing Arts space thanks to the generosity of Yuba Community College District,” said Woodland City Manager Ken Hiatt. “Most of the nation’s rice is grown right here in our backyards; it’s economic impact is significant and we are happy to be celebrating its influence, all while supporting those that are food insecure.”
The 2024 Global Rice Fest will showcase the best of Yolo County as the region continues to build its farm-to-fork festivities. Interested sponsors should contact Maria Segoviano, Yolo Food Bank’s director of development and communications, at email@example.com.