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Celebrate Steinbeck in Salinas.

IN A 1933 LETTER TO A FRIEND, John Steinbeck wrote, "I think I would like to write the story of this whole valley, of all the little towns and all the farms and ranches in the wilder hills."

Eventually, of course, Steinbeck did write about his beloved Salinas Valley, in central California, in some of his most famous works, from The Red Pony to East of Eden. For inspiration, he drew not only on the local landscape but on the local citizenry. In his hometown of Salinas, residents were not universally flattered (in 1939, some citizens burned The Grapes of Wrath).

Before the author died in 1968, the town's opinion took a favorable turn (some even wanted to name a school after him, a proposal he discouraged). And for the past 14 years, Salinas has supported an entire festival dedicated to the author's work. The Steinbeck Festival, now bigger than ever, runs August 5 through 8.

Each day of the festival will offer both walking and bus tours of sites the author featured in his novels and short stories; many of the places he wrote about still exist just as he knew them. There will also be speakers, work shops, a showing of the film The Red Pony, and a visit to the ranch where Steinbeck set that story. For a schedule or information on tickets ($5 registration, $5 to $30 for special events), call the Steinbeck Center Foundation at (408) 753-6411.

If you miss the festival, you can do your own tour of Steinbeck sites in Salinas. The best place to start is the John Steinbeck Library, at 350 Lincoln Avenue, where you'll find a statue of the author outside and a display room devoted to his early manuscripts, first editions of his works, and clippings documenting his literary achievements, which included winning both the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes. Library hours are 10 to 9 Mondays through Wednesdays, 10 to 6 Thursdays through Saturdays.

At the library, you can review a copy of the Guide to Steinbeck Country and plan a tour of the Steinbeck historic district. The tour takes you past stately Queen Anne houses along Central Avenue, including the author's boyhood home, at 132 Central. The guidebook ($7.50) is for sale at the foundation office (see below).

If you visit during the week, you can have lunch at the former Steinbeck residence. Typical entrees include can nelloni and crepes; call (408) 424-2735 for reservations. The Steinbeck Center Foundation, at 371 Main Street, has a nice display of posters from movies made of the author's works. The center is open 8 to 5 weekdays and on festival weekends.
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Title Annotation:John Steinbeck; Salinas, California
Author:Finnegan, Lora J.
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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