Kicking off summer with the sweet taste of strawberries, the 27th annual California Strawberry Festival attracted visitors from all over Southern California to College Park in Oxnard on May 15 and 16.
With activities like live concerts and cook-offs accompanied by bushels of strawberry delicacies like strawberry wine and beer, the California Strawberry Festival was ripe with entertainment for any berry lover.
Hollywood resident Minal Patel and Santa Monica resident Kristen Mukae ventured down to Oxnard to cure their weekend redundancy.
“We were looking for something different to do on the weekend and I grew up on the east coast so I’m not used to [growing] too much fruit out there,” said Patel. “And we love strawberries.”
The California Strawberry Festival is an annual celebration of Oxnard’s number one crop. Strawberries are presented in many shapes and forms, from strawberry shortcakes to chocolate dipped strawberries to even strawberry beer.
Live concerts provided the jams as various as the strawberries, ranging from rock ‘n’ roll and country to Latin and blues.
Other activities included a fine arts and crafts showcase, displaying works from 300 artists, cooking demonstrations and healthy lifestyle presentations at the Strawberry Promenade and contests like the strawberry pie eating contest and Tart Toss.
The California Strawberry Festival started in 1984 at Channel Islands Harbor and after eight years, the event grew too popular for its original site and in 1992, the festival moved to College Park where it takes place today.
With Oxnard’s strawberries generating $366.3 million in 2006 and California exporting 17 million trays of strawberries and 21.9 million pounds of frozen strawberries annually, the quest to create this festival in the early 80s by then Oxnard mayor, Dr. Tsujio Kato, city of Oxnard officials and local strawberry growers has been fully fulfilled.
The festival also has a positive impact on Oxnard through offering more tourists and giving back to the community. With various food booths run by volunteers from about 30 local Southland non-profit organizations, more than $3 million has been raised to help these organizations with their cause.
Festival director Patrick Mullin explained that the festival not only provides fun, but makes generous donations back to the community.
“You’ve seen people coming from all over, people bringing their kids and we always try to present something that’s new and fun,” said Mullin. “We [also] give back to the community about $300,000 every year.”
At the most recent festival, the Berry Blast Off Recipe Contest provided patrons with easy to prepare recipes and pinned Merry Graham of Newhall and Rachel Barlow of Camarillo against each other to prepare the best strawberry dish in a timed challenge for judges.
Between Graham’s snappy shrimp and strawberry coleslaw with maple vinaigrette and Barlow’s strawberry bruschetta with lemon cream, Graham won by just a few more points, winning a four-night Carnival cruise vacation getaway.
The judges thoroughly enjoyed the competition since, for some, the contest was their first time judging food.
“I judge my wife’s food every day,” said Mike Reinwald, California Strawberry Festival executive board member and judge.
“Good answer!” said Linder.
For just two days, the California Strawberry Festival had shown its seeds for many around California and other states, spreading the sweet taste of summer.
Originally published on May 18, 2010 @ StudentVoiceOnline.com