The Steinbeck Festival

The annual Steinbeck Festival is a literary celebration of John Steinbeck’s enduring legacy. The Steinbeck Festival has taken place for the last 38 years in and around Salinas. The Festival is a dynamic, spirited, and challenging exploration through talks, films, performances, workshops, and exhibits. Each year the Festival explores a new theme relating to the life and works of Salinas native, John Steinbeck. It is open to the public and intended to instruct, entertain, and connect like-minded Steinbeck lovers and newbies.

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Tickets & Pricing
Speaker & Schedule Details
Lodging & Parking
Get Involved! RSVP and Submit Your Content



“In Search of America” revisits Steinbeck’s 1962 book, Travels With Charley
& invites participants to reflect on American culture and identity.


All events and activities will be at the National Steinbeck Center

One Main Street, Salinas, California 93901


Friday, August 2nd 5:00 PM – 9:30 PM

Saturday, August 3rd 10:00 AM – 9:30 PM

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Tickets & Pricing

Early Bird Festival Ticket

Members (& discounted) | $50
Non-members | $60

Cut-off is July 26th

Regular Festival Ticket

Members (& discounted) | $65
Non-members | $75

At the door or online

A Festival Ticket allows visitor access to all areas of the building and all activities in the Festival schedule including Pet Show & Western Stage Performance. Does not include Rocinante tours.

General Museum Admission Plus

Members (& discounted) | $12.95
Non-Members | $15

For visitors who would like to visit the museum but not participate in all Festival activities. Ticket includes: museum admission + any ongoing activity occurring in the Rotunda. Does not include Western Stage Performance, Charley’s Pet Show, or Rocinante Tours.

Charley’s Pet Show Only

Members | $12.95
Non-Members | $15

For visitors who would like to participate in the Pet Festivities but not participate in all Festival activities. Includes Pet Show participation. Does not include museum admission, Festival activities, Western Stage Performance, or Rocinante tours

Western Stage’s Performance + Reception Only

Members | $12.95
Non-Members | $15

For visitors who would like to attend the Western Stage’s performance and post-reception but not participate in all Festival activities. Includes Western Stage performance + post performance reception with wine, food, and music. Does not include admission to the museum, or Rocinante tours.

Rocinante Tours With Steinbeck

All Tickets | $15
Tours start at 10:30 am, 12:30 pm, 2:30 pm

After a brief discussion with Steinbeck, ticket holders will be ushered into Steinbeck’s authentic original camper one at a time.

Tours will last 30 minutes. Space is VERY limited. Please, no children under 12 years old.

This ticket is not included with the general Festival pass. Ticket holders must have proof of purchase. Space and tickets are limited. Must have wrist band to enter the truck.

Get Your Tickets Today

Call 831.796.3833 for questions or tickets

Food truck food and drink not included in ticket price. Must have valid ID and be 21+ for beer and wine tasting. Limited seating, must RSVP to attend: Zocalo Public Square, Rocinante tours, walking tours, Charley’s Pet Show, Western Stage performance and reception.

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Schedule At a Glance

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Schedule, speakers, and locations are subject to change without notice

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Schedule & Speakers Details

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

Did Americans Ever Get Along?

“From the first we have treated our minorities abominably, the way the old boys do the new kids in school,” Steinbeck wrote in “E Pluribus Unum,” an essay in America and the Americans. American identity, the author argued, was forged through this cruel process of hazing the newest, and that once any ethnic group became established, it would pick on the newly arriving group. “It occurs to me,” he wrote, “that this very cruelty toward newcomers might go far to explain the speed with which the ethnic and national strangers merged with the ‘Americans.’” Steinbeck’s view of America calls for us to understand the conflicts that created our nation. How does a country made up of so many different people ultimately cohere? Does America deserve its reputation for being welcoming to immigrants? And do America’s fissures and divisions ever completely go away? Leading scholars of American history and identity visit Zócalo to examine the enduring tensions between the pluribus and the unum.
Zócalo Public Square
connects people to ideas and to each other by examining essential questions in an accessible, broad-minded, and democratic spirit. At a time when our country’s public sphere and our global digital conversation have become ever more polarized and segregated, Zócalo seeks to create a welcoming intellectual space and engage a new and diverse generation in the public square. We pursue our mission by convening events and by publishing ideas journalism. Because democracy is as much a culture as it is a system, we believe that creating meaningful opportunities for citizens to communicate with—and learn from—one another both nurtures and protects it.
Gregory Rodriguez, Founder and Publisher, Zócalo Public Square

Gregory is the author of Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans and Vagabonds: Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America, which The Washington Post listed among the “Best Books of 2007.” Formerly a longtime op-ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times, he has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Time, and The Atlantic. In 2012, he was named a Goldman Sachs Senior Fellow at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, where he founded and now directs the “What It Means to Be American” project.

  • Patricia Limerick
  • University of Colorado historian and Center of the American West faculty director

  • Tomas Jimenez
  • Stanford University sociologist

  • Gary Gerstle
  • Cambridge University historian


    RSVP Here

    Registration for reservation holders will open at 5:30 PM on August 2nd. Tickets are distributed at registration to reservation holders on a first-come, first-served basis and only to the person(s) present at registration. Reservations do not guarantee seating. At all events, Zócalo adheres to its Code of Civility. We will release unclaimed reservations at 6:20 PM.

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    Saturday, August 3rd

    Ongoing All Day

    Genus Americanus Exhibit | John Steinbeck Museum, The Lab

    Interactive inquiry into the pressing questions Steinbeck asked about America. Includes authentic pieces from Rocinante, his trip and first editions and art from TWC and America and Americans

    Rocinante: Up Close and Personal, on display without glass | John Steinbeck Museum

    Steinbeck’s Original truck he took on his trip. 1960 GMC V6 truck with a 305 cubic inch engine, camper shell on the truck bed. We will take down the protective exhibit glass to allow for and up-close-and-personal interactive experience.

    Challenging Travels Scavenger Hunt | John Steinbeck Museum

    A fun challenge throughout the museum where you can also learn new things about John

    Corn Hole + Games | Back Patio

    Two boards, a bunch of bags. Toss, score, win, dominate. It’s what unites us all.

    6 Word Stories Exhibit | Rotunda

    Preview the works of local artists and the responses from Steinbeck followers from around the world who contributed to our online 6 Word Story

    Monterey Museum of Art led crafts & Paint Station | Rotunda

    Memorialize your visit and this important book by making a keepsake. Paint, crafts, and fun for all ages and abilities led by friendly and knowledgeable docents from the Monterey Museum of Art

    Photo Booth + Green Screen | Rotunda

    Who doesn’t love a photobooth? With our photo booth and green screen, you can travel to Steinbeck’s roadtrip stops and say you searched for America, too!

    English Ales Brewery Fundraising Brews for sale | Front Patio
    Friday: 3:00 pm – 7:00pm

    Saturday: All Day

    Founded in 2000 by the English born family of Peter and Rosemary Blackwell and their daughter Karen, with the intention of providing our customers with fresh, English Style Ales.

    Now in their 19th year, they have expanded our line to accommodate those who prefer a “hoppier” flavor, however, traditional English Style beers are their mainstay. Sample their brews, half of the proceeds will go to education programs for the NSC

    Mix of Flavors Fundraising Food for sale | Front Patio
    Friday: 3:00 pm – 7:00pm

    Saturday: All Day

    Chef Jose Mondragon will be crafting delicious regional American dishes with only the best fresh local ingredients. Half of his proceeds will go to education programs for the NSC

    SPCA of Monterey County Dog & Puppy Adoptions

    The SPCA of Monterey County will be bringing their most eligible road-trip co-pilots for adoption. Think wagging tails, fuzzy faces, and terrible with directions but full of love! They will also be tabling to update you on their events and ways to help out the furry citizens of America


    9:45 am – 10:30 am | Steinbeck Bookshop

    Coffee with Steinbeck: Tom Lorentzen, storyteller and Steinbeck actor

    10:00 am – 2:00 pm | Vista Room

    Charley’s Pet Show Registration: Register your fur-baby to strut their stuff.

    10:00 am – 12:00 pm | Gabilan Room

    Writing Workshop for Beginners by Park Place Publications and Central Coast Writers.
    10 a.m. Welcome
    10:15 Joyce Krieg: “Steinbeck and Writing About Setting”
    10:45 Patricia Hamilton: “Using Setting Details in Your Writings” 11:00 Writing Exercises using Cannery Row Steinbeck Era Map and House Floor Plan
    11:40 Wrap up: Share Writings (optional).
    &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp
    Concurrent right outside of Gabilan:
    “Drop-in Youth and Family, Guided Writing Prompts” with Elayne Azevedo. Keith Larson, well-known local illustrator, will be doing small line drawings for those writers who request it, free of charge. &nbsp

    About Park Place Publications
    Patricia Hamilton: Owner of Park Place Publications in Pacific Grove, Patricia has published 200+ books for clients—in all genres—since 1983. The 2017-18 Life in Pacific Grove books, with writings by residents and visitors, sparked a new imprint: Pacific Grove Books. She now solicits authors to write books that take place in P.G.

    Joyce Krieg:
    is the author of three mysteries published by St. Martin’s Press, president of California Writers Club (22 chapters, 2100 members), and a professional book editor.

    Elayne Azevedo:
    A local naturalist who enjoys writing and engaging children’s creativity, Elayne has worked in classrooms, is a community educator and volunteers at the PG Museum of Natural History. Elayne also provides voice over services for authors and businesses.

    Once you have purchased your Festival pass, please RSVP here so the workshop leaders can plan their supplies accordingly. No experience necessary to join. You don’t need to bring any supplies unless you’d like to use your own work processor or notebook.

    RSVP online here
    10:00 – 11:00 | Salinas Room
    David Wrobel – “Steinbeck’s America”:

    A virtual call with NSC Visiting Scholar David Wrobel LIVE from the University of Oklahoma 10:00 am – 12:00 pm | Meet at the John Steinbeck Library
    Salinas Public Library Neighborhood History Walking Tour

    Join us as we explore different parts of central Salinas and discover the city’s rich heritage. The guided tours, based around themes, explore: the history of the Salinas, its architectural structures, and literary past. All of the free First Saturday History Walks begin at the John Steinbeck Library, and run from 10:00am – 12:00pm. Reservations encouraged, as space is limited. Call Sean at 831-758-7041 for more info or to make a reservation. Walks are on May 5, June 2, July 7, and August 3. 10:30 am – 11:00 am | Museum
    Inside Rocinante Tours with Steinbeck:

    Once in a lifetime opportunity! Take yourself on a rare journey. Meet John Steinbeck in person and enter his actual camper, Rocinante. The exhibit glass comes down, and you will be allowed INSIDE the truck. Explore the cabin and take a seat behind the wheel. Our archivist will provide insightful history of the car, the trip, and the artifacts within.

    After a brief discussion with Steinbeck, ticket holders will be ushered into Steinbeck’s authentic original camper one at a time. Please allow patience and respect during embarking and disembarking this historic artifact.

    Tours will start at 10:30, 12:00, 2:30 pm. Tours will last 30 minutes. Space is VERY limited. Please, no children under 12 years old.
    11:00 am – 12:00 pm | Salinas Room
    Neal Hotelling, former President of the Cannery Row Foundation. Historian for the Pebble Beach Company.

    “Steinbeck at Pebble Beach during his Travels with Charley.” While Benson makes notes that Elaine joined him at points in his cross-country trek, few know that this included a stay at The Lodge in 1960, and that he filmed his introduction to Barnaby Conrad’s production of “Flight” while he was here on his Travel’s with Charley. It was filmed along 17-Mile Drive below The Lone Cypress.

    11:00 am, 12:00 pm | The Long Valley Theater
    Travels With Charley (1968)

    A partial television adaptation of the novel by John Steinbeck, which depicts one man’s odyssey across the United States. (The TV adaptation of the book covers only the scenic wonders from New England to California.) Directed by Walt Defaria and Sheldon Fay. Narrated by Henry Fonda.

    12:00 pm – 1:00 pm | The Salinas Room
    Peter Zheutlin, The Dog Went Over The Mountain Travels With Albie: An American Journey, Author Presentation and Q & A

    Introduced by friend Senator Bill Monning, 17th Senate District representative, which includes all of San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz counties, and portions of Monterey and Santa Clara counties.

    What a trip! Zheutlin is a freelance journalist and author whose work has appeared regularly in The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, The Los Angeles Times, Parade Magazine, AARP Magazine and numerous other publications in the U.S. and abroad.

    He’s the author of the New York Times best-seller, Rescue Road: One Man, Thirty Thousand Dogs and a Million Miles on the Last Hope Highway (Sourcebooks, 2015) and Rescued: What Second-Chance Dogs Teach Us About Living With Purpose, Loving With Abandon, and Finding Joy in the Little Things (TarcherPerigee, 2017).

    His newest book, to be published in September 2019, is The Dog Went Over the Mountain: Travels with Albie: An American Journey (Pegasus Books). Inspired by a re-reading of John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, he took his first (and oldest) rescue dog on a 9,200-mile odyssey around the United States. The book is the story of that journey.

    12:00 pm – 12:30 pm, 2:30 pm – 3:00 pm | John Steinbeck Museum
    Inside Rocinante Tours with Steinbeck

    Once in a lifetime opportunity! Take yourself on a rare journey. Meet John Steinbeck in person and enter his actual camper, Rocinante. The exhibit glass comes down, and you will be allowed INSIDE the truck. Explore the cabin and take a seat behind the wheel. Our archivist will provide insightful history of the car, the trip, and the artifacts within.

    After a brief discussion with Steinbeck, ticket holders will be ushered into Steinbeck’s authentic original camper one at a time. Please allow patience and respect during embarking and disembarking this historic artifact.

    12:30 pm – 1:45 pm | Gabilan Room
    Bookbinding Workshop – pending

    1:00 pm – 1:30 pm | Steinbeck Bookshop
    Peter Z Book signing + meet and greet

    Grab a copy of The Dog Went Over the Mountain: Travels with Albie: An American Journey and meet Author, Peter Zheutlin. Autographs, pictures, and Q & A

    1:30 pm – 2:30 pm | Salinas Room
    Exclusive film screening of Adios Amor: The Search for Maria Moreno.

    The first farm worker woman in America to be hired as a union organizer, Maria’s story was silenced and her legacy buried—until now. Q & A + storytelling with local Salinas farm worker advocate Albertina Padilla and director Laurie Coyle to follow the screening.

    Laurie majored in political theory at UC Berkeley and worked as an oral historian, focusing on the untold stories of women workers along the US-Mexico border.
    Film screen + panel are included in the Festival Pass, but the screening is free for visitors who would only like to view the film and participate in the subsequent discussions. The film will be shown in English with Spanish subtitles.

    Please RSVP here, seating will be limited

    Film exclusivo de Adios Amor: The Search for Maria Moreno. la primera mujer trabajadora agrícola en Estados Unidos en ser contratada como organizadora del sindicato, la historia de María fue silenciada y su legado enterrado, hasta ahora.

    Q & A cuentacuentos con la defensora local de los trabajadores agrícolas de Salinas Albertina Padilla y la directora Laurie Coyle para seguir la proyección.

    Estilo Laurie se especializó en teoría política en UC Berkeley y trabajó como historiadora oral, centrándose en las historias no contadas de mujeres trabajadoras a lo largo de la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México.

    La pantalla de la película panel se incluyen en el Festival Pass, pero la proyección es gratuita para los visitantes que sólo desean ver la película y participar en las discusiones posteriores.

    Por favor RSVP aquí, Los asientos serán limitados

    2:30 pm – 3:00 pm | Salinas Room
    Q & A panel with film maker Laurie Coyle of “Adios Amor” and Albertina Padilla Audience members will be able to participate in a conversation and Q & A with the panel.

    2:00 pm – 3:00 pm | The Long Valley Theater
    “What Are Americans Like Today” Film Short screenings. Watch our <20 minute film shorts submitted by you!

    3:00 pm – 3:30 pm | The Long Valley Theater

    “What Are Americans Like Today” Film Short Judging and Awards

    2:00 pm | Vista Room + Vista Room Patio

    Charley’s Pet Show starts

    2:00 pm 2:30 pm

    Charley’s Pet Show: Best Dressed Group

    See which pet has the best style and grace. Dress for the occasion. Costumes and silliness is encouraged and enjoyed.

    2:30 pm – 3:00 pm | Vista Room + Vista Room Patio
    Charley’s Pet Show: Best Personality Group

    Au Naturelle pets have their turn to impress our SCPA judges- no costumes, just tricks, smarts, and obedience. Pets can show off their personalities or skills.

    3:00 pm – 4:00 pm | Salinas Room
    Kevin Hearle: “Race and Ethnicity in Travels with Charley and in Steinbeck’s Salinas.”

    Kevin Hearle is an author, an editor, a poet, and a lecturer. He holds degrees from Stanford University, the University of Iowa, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the author of Each Thing We Know Is Changed Because We Know It and Other Poems and served as an editor for The Grapes of Wrath: Text and Criticism, Beyond Boundaries: Rereading John Steinbeck, and The Essential Mary Austin.

    3:00 pm – 3:30 pm | Vista Room + Vista Room Patio
    Charley Look-Alike Contest

    Calling all poodles! We want all blue standard sized poodles. Or miniature sized poodles. Heck, we want all poodles to come and tribute Charley!

    3:30 pm – 4:00 pm | Vista Room + Vista Room Patio + Museum

    Charley’s Pet Show Winner Photo Opportunity in Rocinante Winners from each category receive their prizes and are invited to take a photo with Rocinante in the exhibit


    5:00 pm – 6:00 pm | Rotunda

    Live Music from duo Willy Tea Taylor & Jordan Smart: folk/rock/acoustic Oakdale, California native Willy Tea Taylor sings folk music. His remarkable ability to sing about profound subjects in a simple way makes his songs a great place to lose yourself. He is a huge fan of Steinbeck. His newest album is titled, Damn Good Dog

    6:00 pm – 7:00 pm | The Salinas Room Western Stage’s dramatic performance of Travels With Charley

    The Western Stage in partnership with the National Steinbeck Center presents a dramatized reading featuring actors from The Western Stage of Travels With Charley. Directed by Melissa Chin-Parker

    The Western Stage has adapted several works of John Steinbeck for the stage, including Cannery Row, Viva, Zapata! Tortilla Flat and most notably, the three-part, nine-hour adaptation of East of Eden. This reading of scenes from Travels with Charley, which had its World Premire at The Western Stage in 1998, will include photos and video excerpts from that production.

    7:00 pm – 9:00 pm | The Rotunda In Search of…a Reception! Sips, apps, music, mingling

    Culminate the Festival with a relaxing and jovial evening of live music by Will Tea Taylor + Jordan Smart, photo booth, Rocinante, great food, and great drinks.

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    Lodging & Parking


    If you are traveling from out of town, we’ve reserved a block of rooms at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites at a discounted rate for Festival-goers.

    Here are the booking instructions:

    Via Telephone: Please call us directly at 831-737-1160 and ask for the reservations department. Once speaking with a reservations, mention the group block name of “Steinbeck Festival 2019” along with the arrival/departure dates and the discounted rates will show up.

    Via Online: Steinbeck Festival 2019

    Please note rooms are only available at these discounted rates until July 21st. After this date, all rooms not picked up will be released back into our general inventory.


    There is ample street parking on Main Street and also in the Monterey Street Parking garage, located directly next door to the National Steinbeck Center.

    Directions to the Center

    Explore Salinas!

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    Get Involved!

    RSVP and Submit Your Content

    Charley’s Pet Show

    • Starts at 2:00 pm in the Vista Room
    • Judges from the SPCA of Monterey County
    • Winners will receive a pet-astic gift basket
    • First prize winners will win a photo opportunity inside Steinbeck’s camper, Rocinante

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    Film Short Contest

    You don’t have to be a professional to submit, give it a shot!

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    6 Word Stories & Artwork

    Every week leading up to the 38th annual Steinbeck Festival, we will be posting a different prompt, asking people to submit 6 word stories on our social media channels using #insearchofamerica. We’ve asked talented local artists to illustrate these stories in their respective mediums. Be sure to check out the complete collection of stories and art on display at Festival!

    1. What is the biggest misconception about Americans?

    “Americans know no language but capitalism.”
    Artist: Alexis Villanueva
    Submitted by: Instgram @roya_life_goes_on

    2. What is the best thing about America?

    “Freedom to take freedom for granted.”
    Artist: Kate Warthen
    Submitted by: Facebook Misty Bethany

    3. When do you feel most American?

    “Teaching my students, America’s promising future.”
    Artist: Kim Barnes
    Submitted by: Facebook: Carla Smith

    4. What makes you hopeful for American’s future?

    “Critical thinking is making a comeback.”
    Artist: Kalene Tuioti
    Submitted by: Facebook: Jenna Hillhouse

    5. Describe your American Dream

    “Work toward purpose. Not toward profit.”
    Submitted by: William Sterling, Instagram

    6. Describe your favorite American location or roadtrip

    Tahoe. Summer. That hot pine smell.
    Submitted by: miss_nomers103, Instagram

    7. Tell us what you want from the next president.

    “Compassion, empathy, the ability to listen.”
    Submitted by: Carol Renn, Facebook

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    Thank you to our generous sponsors!

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