Strawberry Festivals Forever
Strawberry Festival is berry good for local charities
By Chris O'Neal 05/15/2014
Get ready to pack the kids into the strawberry shuttle this weekend as the California Strawberry Festival returns for its 31st year in Oxnard.
Since its inception in 1984, the festival has raised more than $4 million for some 20 local charities, making it one of the largest charitable events in Ventura County.
Bill Belcher was on the first volunteer board for the California Strawberry Festival in 1984, when it was located at the Channel Islands Harbor. Now he acts as the chief financial officer for the festival.
“I didn’t expect it to be going for 31 years,” said Belcher, who recalls the move from the harbor to College Park. “Our attendance was about 4,500.” This year, 60,000 visitors are expected over the weekend, says Belcher.
Over those 31 years, the festival has grown not only in size but in charitable donations, one of which, the California Strawberry Workers Scholarship that goes to the families of California farmworkers, is given $6,000 by the festival.
A scholarship in the name of former Oxnard mayor and founder of the California Strawberry Festival, Dr. Tsujio Kato, is also awarded using funds generated by the event, as well as annual donations to all Oxnard high schools, CSU Channel Islands and the Oxnard College scholarship fund.
Daisy Tatum, a member of the festival’s executive board, has been with the festival since 1984. Tatum says that the funds given to the scholarships and charitable organizations come mostly from ticket sales.
“We not only give back to the nonprofits in the organization, but a number of students in our community would not be able to go to college without support,” said Tatum.
Some 432 volunteers work under Tatum, but she estimates that many more will be on site working behind the scenes.
As for the strawberries, four local growers donate strawberries for the plethora of food items made at the festival. Nakamura Farms, Bob Jones Ranch, Dullam Nursery and Hasegawa Farms bring somewhere near 5,000 trays for the weekend.
Student volunteers from the Buena High School band, as part of the Buena Music Association, erect a strawberry funnel cake tent and serve countless cakes over the weekend with proceeds going to support the high school’s music program.
The California Strawberry Festival takes place Saturday, May 17, and Sunday, May 18, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Oxnard College Park, 3250 S. Rose Ave., Oxnard. $8-$12. For more information, visit www.strawberry-fest.org.