Recent rains may have damaged some of the Southern California strawberry crop, but there will still be plenty of big red berries at the fifth annual California Strawberry Festival today and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Channel Islands Harbor. With 25 to 30 stands around Oxnard selling berries, and other booths selling various foods made with strawberries, there "won't be any shortage of berries," Dr. Tsujio Kato, festival chairman, said. He should know--his brother Ron is an area grower.
Festivities begin each day with a strawberry pancake breakfast, from 10 to 11:30 a.m., served by the Oxnard Rotary Club. Those who don't arrive in time, however, can appease their appetites with ice cream, crepes, tamales, pizza, muffins, cotton candy, fruit bars, pie and cheesecake--all, of course, featuring strawberries. There's also a "make your own strawberry shortcake" tent, with trays of freshly baked shortcake, piles of strawberries and tubs of whipped cream.
"You'll even get a berry on your hamburger or hot dog," Kato said. "It's just part of the fun."
Having fun celebrating the harvest of one of Ventura County's primary agricultural crops is what this festival is all about.
Visitors can compete in the strawberry shortcake eating contest each day at 2 p.m. (register at the information booth) or watch the judging of the Outstanding Strawberry Blond (18 and older) and Junior Strawberry Blond (5- to 12-year-olds) contests today at 11 a.m. Monday was the deadline for contest applicants; anyone with red or strawberry-blond hair--whether natural, tinted or wearing a wig--was eligible to enter.
"We didn't discriminate in any way--anyone, male or female, could enter," Kato said.
Other attractions include the race of waiters and waitresses today at 1 p.m. Contestants must reach the finish line in record time without spilling a drop of strawberry wine from the glass on their tray. Those interested in raising strawberries should stop in at the growers' booth or pick up information that will be available.
Boat rides, tea dancing and strolling mimes and clowns will add to the enjoyment. Sunday you can watch the 10K and 2K fun run/walks, beginning at 8 a.m.
Two stages will be the setting for continuous musical entertainment, ranging from jazz to country, big band and rock 'n' roll. Performers include the Very Special Jazz Band, Pauline Wilson Band, Blazing Redheads, the Great Bandini, Sound Effect, Nu Motif and Trinidad Calypso Steel Band.
There will also be more than 160 arts and crafts exhibits. Local artists and crafts people, as well as many from around California and other states, will include sculptors, woodworkers, leather smiths, glass blowers, printmakers, photographers and lithographers, toy makers, jewelers, ceramists, fiber artists and a lamp maker.
Ventura County Supervisor John Flynn, co-chairman of the festival, says he's impressed "by the amount of community involvement in this event." There are more than 400 volunteers, and about half the festival booths are operated by local nonprofit groups. Some of these vendors use the festival as their primary fund-raising event.
Handling the 80,000 to 100,000 people expected over the two-day period required some planning, but the festival committee reports that the logistics have been worked out. There will be no parking available at the festival site in Channel Islands Harbor. Instead, a shuttle fleet of 50 buses and several vans is providing complimentary service between the festival and three free parking areas.
Visitors should watch for freeway and surface street signs directing them to parking facilities at: Oxnard College, 4000 S. Rose Ave., Oxnard; the U.S. Naval Construction Battalion Center (CBC), Port Hueneme (Pleasant Valley Gate); and the Ventura County Government Center, 800 S. Victoria Ave., Ventura. Handicapped patrons are requested to park at the U.S. Naval CBC, where they will find specially equipped shuttle vehicles.
The shuttle service begins leaving the parking areas at 9:45 a.m. The last shuttle from the parking areas to the festival will be at 4:45 p.m., and the last shuttle from the festival site back to the parking areas will leave at 6:30 p.m. Admission to the festival is $3 for adults, $1 for children ages 5 to 12 and seniors 65 and older.