It's time for the red and green signs of Christmas: boughs of holly, bunches of poinsettias and baskets of strawberries.
While the rest of the country is dreaming of a white Christmas, Ventura County is dotted red with its first strawberry crop of the season.
Representatives of the Oxnard Strawberry Festival and Miss Oxnard, official hostess of the annual event, gathered at Kotake & Sons Farm in Camarillo on Tuesday to help pick the first ripe berries. The only person not particularly thrilled with the trays of strawberries was Cliff Kotake, one of the owners of the farm. "You tend to get a little sick of strawberries after all these years," said Kotake, 34, whose father started the business more than 20 years ago. But his 4-year-old nephew, Tachi Shudo, enjoyed taste-testing the riches of the family business.
The Camarillo farm is usually the first in the county to pick the crop, said Tsujio Kato, festival chairman.
Since it was first held eight years ago, the festival has grown "too successful to accommodate the large crowds," Kato said. So this spring, the event will be moved to College Park by Oxnard College, which is twice the size of the former site at Channel Islands Harbor, Kato said.