Dennis and Conny Olarte sell their Essence of O soaps at events throughout Northern California, but the Harvest Festivals are their favorites.
"We enjoy them all because they are all original art -- you can find unique stuff that you wouldn't normally find at a store," Dennis Olarte said. "That's the kind of venue we like."
"We've been doing the Pleasanton Harvest Festival for about 10 years," he added. "We really enjoy that show."
The Pleasanton Harvest Festival returns to the Alameda County Fairgrounds from Oct 25-27, with more than 250 artisans showcasing their creations that include original art, jewelry, ceramics, woodturnings, clothing, photography, specialty foods, toys and decor.
The festival is a fun fall event with food, live music and nonstop entertainment on the outdoor stage. This year comedic duo Scotty and Trink will perform juggling routines, and the Fargo Brothers will entertain with their classic rock.
Strolling entertainers will roam the fairgrounds and interact with guests as they shop, including Frankenstein on Stilts.
The event includes a pumpkin patch -- perfect for family photos -- and a KidZone hosted by Pleasanton ceramics studio Color Me Mine featuring Halloween-themed, make-and-take arts and crafts projects.
The festival is also partnering with local nonprofit partners Open Heart Kitchen and Tri-Valley Haven, providing them with half of the proceeds from all shopping bag sales. A food drive will give $2 off any adult or senior admission for those who bring in a nonperishable food donation.
But the artists and artisans' products are the main draw.
"What makes our event so unique is all the incredible artists who exhibit with us," said show owner Nancy Glenn. "We have hundreds of talented, creative individuals who produce things that you will never see in any mall or big box."
The Harvest Festivals began 47 years ago in San Francisco as a destination for artists and craftspeople to gather and have a forum to sell their handmade products. Today, the shows take place at nine venues in California and Nevada and still only features handmade arts and crafts made in the United States.
Exhibitors go through a rigid jury process to be selected, which results in high quality and diversity of products.
"When we started the Harvest Festivals, there were nine or 10 selling soap," Dennis Olarte said. "Now they are down to one or two."
The Olartes first became acquainted with high quality, handmade soap when a family member in Kansas sent them a bar of glycerin lemon grass soap.
"We were sad when the soap was gone," recalled Olarte. "Then in Half Moon Bay, we found something kind of like it. When it was gone we were going to return to Half Moon Bay, then my wife said, 'Why don't I make my own soap?'"
She began to attend soap-making classes, buying books on the subject and experimenting in their Union City home and giving it to friends to test.
"After about 2-1/2 years, she said she was ready to go into business," Olarte said.
A customer alerted them to the Harvest Festivals and they were accepted.
"We built up a lot of inventory to do the first show and were pleasantly surprised," Olarte remembered. "Customers really took to our product."
They also sell a lot of their soaps on their website and at the Discovery store at San Jose International Airport, which promotes handmade products from the Bay Area.
"This is my wife's career, she hand-makes all the soap," Olarte said. "I design computer chips in Sunnyvale."
At the Harvest Festivals, Dennis talks to the customers, while Conny works in the background, cutting the logs of soap into bars and wrapping them.
"We make our soap in logs, and each log has 12 bars," he explained, "Sometimes customers request the entire log."
They offer their soap at the best price at shows, he added, with individual bars selling for $6, and prices lower as more bars are purchased. Twenty bars cost $80. They travel to about 16 shows each year from May to mid-December, including four Harvest Festivals.
One draw of the Pleasanton Harvest Festival is the chance to directly interact with the artists, watch crafting demonstrations, and the chance to get many gifts personalized.
"When you visit the Harvest Festival, you know you are really supporting small, independent crafters," Glenn noted.
Shopping and more
What: Pleasanton Harvest Festival
When:10 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 25; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Oct. 26; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 27
Where: Alameda County Fairgrounds
Tickets: Adults -- $9; seniors, military -- $7; youths 13-17 -- $4; 12 and under free. Tickets valid for re-entry.
Information: www.harvestfestival.com or call 392-7300.