Santa Maria Strawberry Festival Celebrates Red Gems in Many Ways

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By Janene Scully, Noozhawk North County Editor April 25, 2019

The Santa Maria Fairpark will serve up a “Strawberry Escape” for three days beginning Friday, celebrating Santa Barbara County’s top crop while letting people taste, test and take home the sweet red fruit.

The annual Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival runs through Sunday at the fairpark, with a carnival, entertainment, food and plenty of berries to consume.

At the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum booth, the science of strawberries, including how to extract DNA and how to make strawberry-scented moon sand, will be the focus in presentations at 1, 3 and 5 p.m. each day.

On Thursday, Amy Blasco, Discovery Museum program manager, gave a demonstration of the berry DNA extraction process, noting the science experiment uses basic items found in homes. 

Asked why someone would want to see strawberry DNA, Blasco answered, “Because it’s cool.”

But there’s a caveat for those craving strawberries at the Discovery Museum booth.

Woman holding a test tube with red liquid in it.

Amy Blasco from the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum demonstrates DNA extracted from a strawberry. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“Nothing should be eaten here,” she warned. “If you want to eat you’ve got to go out and enjoy some of the fair food. This is all for play and for science.”

Rest assured strawberries can be consumed plenty of other places at the fairpark, including for free at a taste-testing event and eating contests. 

Attendees can help develop the future of the berry industry by participating in a taste test featuring varieties provided by local growers. Tasting will occur between noon and 4 p.m each day, courtesy of the popular California Women in Agriculture booth, where volunteers will serve up thousands of red gems over the weekend.

Others can fill their faces with a strawberry dessert eating contest, planned for 4:30 p.m. 

A strawberry carnival ride.
The Midway of Fun Carnival at the Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival includes the Berry-Go-Round ride at the Santa Maria Fairpark. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Cooking demonstration will occur at 12:30, 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. thanks to Chef Landry’s Cajun Comedy Dinner & Cooking Show, where he will demonstrate both berry desserts and non-berry entrees such strawberry bread pudding, strawberry delight and Cajun-themed foods.  

A kids strawberry ice cream making contest also is planned, Landry said, adding everyone ends up a winner.

“If you get ice cream, you win,” Landry said.

The Midway of Fun Carnival will let festival-goers take a twirl in a strawberry at the Berry Go Round along with Flying Elephants, recently imported from Europe and proving popular.

Also making its Santa Maria debut is the Star Tower, the tallest portable swing line, standing 130 feet tall.

A goat peering through a fence.

The Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival at the Santa Maria Fairpark includes a petting zoo. The festival opens Friday and runs through Sunday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“Even on a foggy night you can see it from far away,” said Harry Mason from the Midway of Fun Carnival, marking its 19th year at the festival.

A number of acts will take turns performing on Center Stage throughout the weekend, including Francesca Jule, a David Cassidy and Barry Manilow tribute artist; Joker’s Hand, a rock, alternative and pop band; country singer Anthony Ray; pop/rock group CloudRunners, and bilingual singers Cleo Millenia 

The weekend also will include motocross riders, monster trucks and mayhem quad wars, starting at 2 p.m. Saturday at the fairpark’s Minetti Arena.

“We’re really excited about it and the aerials that these guys do are incredible,” fairpark spokeswoman Shelly Cone said. 

Monster truck show tickets are $15 and include admission to the festival. Tickets can be purchased online by clicking here.

Fairpark gates will be open from noon to 10 p.m. all three days.

Festival admission tickets at the gate will cost $10 for ages 12 to 61, $8 for ages 6 to 11, $8 for ages 62 and older, and free for children 5 and young. Carnival daily unlimited ride wristbands cost $35.

Friday is Seniors Day when those 62 and older receive free admission. On Saturday for Kid’s Day, those ages 6 to 11 will be admitted for $1 and those 5 and younger can get in free.

Sunday is “Fiesta Day” with the Super Jaripeo Baile Festival planned for the Minetti Arena and a separately ticketed event.

Parking at at the Fairpark will cost $7 before 6 p.m. and $10 afterward.

For more information and a schedule of activities and performances, click here. 

— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk@NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

A plate of strawberries.

Strawberries will be available for tasting, taking home and studying this weekend at the Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival, which opens Friday and runs through Sunday at the Santa Maria Fairpark. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)
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