By J.C. Thomas
An estimated 1.5 million strawberries were eaten by over 60,000 people attending the 35th annual California Strawberry Festival, held over the weekend of May 19 and 20, 2018. In celebration of a sweet start to the season for Ventura County’s No. 1 crop, festival-goers enjoyed fresh, ripe strawberries by the basket, dipped in chocolate or skewered, sliced and sauced over funnel cakes and creatively transformed into strawberry tacos, pizza, popcorn and more. A cool and cloudy start to both days gave way to afternoon sunshine as adults sipped strawberry-infused beers and margaritas while watching top tribute bands and juice-stained kids ran around, all enjoying this fun-filled festival designed for the whole family.
The festival took over bigger-than-ever grounds at Strawberry Meadows of College Park in Oxnard. Three additional soccer fields and a third stage for live entertainment expanded festival grounds in response to the event’s increasing popularity over the past few years. Two food courts with over 50 booths, 200-plus arts and crafts vendors, Strawberryland with carnival rides for kids, a strawberry pie eating contest and a build-your-own-strawberry-shortcake tent were all highlights of the festivities.
Now past its 35th year, the California Strawberry Festival is the creation of the late Oxnard Mayor Dr. Tsujio Kato, whose uncle was a strawberry grower, along with other city officials and local farmers. The founders wanted to celebrate the local strawberry industry, which produces over 250,000 tons of the fruit every year, and to promote California strawberries as the best you can buy. The inaugural festival, sponsored by Oxnard’s own J.M. Smucker Company, was held in 1984 at Channel Islands Harbor, its home for eight years before moving to Strawberry Meadows of College Park.
Over 40 local non-profits will benefit from this year’s proceeds. Over the past 10 years the California Strawberry Festival has raised $4.65 million that has gone back to the community. The event has even been recognized by the Library of Congress for its positive community impact. The festival’s estimated economic impact to the community is $7.5 million.