OXNARD — If you are longing for really fresh, just-picked fruit, summertime's first crop, consider a visit to the fourth annual Strawberry Festival in Oxnard this weekend. There you can buy sweet, ripe, shiny-red berries for $10 a flat. That's enough to eat fresh, bake in a pie and cook for jam, too.
The festival, today and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Channel Islands Harbor area, celebrates Oxnard's heritage as backyard vegetable garden to Los Angeles, a rural life style that may be bowing to the pressures of coastal development.
Indeed, some residents here worry that recent invasions of glitzy condos, resort hotels, yachts and marina-side watering holes may someday displace the strawberry patch, all 3,000 acres of it.
While strawberries are Oxnard's most marketable and high-profile product and the festival's theme, fun for adults and children is the real focus of the weekend.
The program of events and entertainment includes an arts and crafts show and sale, continuous music on two stages, dancing, jugglers and puppeteers, and wine tasting in two garden areas.
Of course with strawberries as the headliner, there is endless food, much of it prepared with the luscious fruit and served in several outdoor cafes. You can overdose at will on strawberry shortcake, waffles, crepes and cheesecake as well as barbecued ribs, chicken and hamburgers.
In addition, there will be fun for the children at Strawberryland, a strawberry shortcake eating contest at 2 p.m. each day, a waiters' race at 11 a.m. today (contestants will balance trays of strawberry-wine-filled glasses) and a 10K run at 8 a.m. Sunday--events that attracted more than 100,000 visitors last year.
If that sounds like the kind of crowd you'd prefer to avoid, you may be encouraged by the fact that organizers have closed the harbor area to cars and enlisted a fleet of shuttle buses to carry visitors to the festival grounds from five parking lots in Oxnard. Look for signs to parking.
Three dollars for adults and $1 for children pays your shuttle bus fare and admits you to the festivities.
Before the day is over, buy some strawberries to take home. Picked daily, they make a fine but short-lived souvenir. Growers will also be selling flats and half-flats at roadside stands along California 1 through June.
Information: (805) 984-4715. Oxnard is an hour's drive west of Los Angeles via California 1 or the Ventura Freeway.