Watsonville's favorite fruit takes center stage this weekend at the 17th annual Watsonville Strawberry Festival
About 75,000 thousand people are expected to take over the City Plaza, in historic downtown Watsonville, for the festival on Saturday and Sunday.
The admission-free event will offer some of the usual classics of the previous years: food vendors selling all sorts of strawberry as well as non-strawberry infused foods, the infamous strawberry pie eating contest, a variety of live music and typical fun fairground activities.
The celebration, which has taken place for almost two decades, always comes up with different ways of celebrating Watsonville’s most important cash crop.
“We plan it a year in advance, we always are working on the next year before the other one has completed,” said Doug Mattos, director of the Watsonville Strawberry Festival. “We always try to do things better and learn from any mistakes we have possibly made.”
One of the ways in which the festival is trying to upgrade its roster of events this year is with the bicycle race. Where both professional and amateur racers are invited to participate in 0.8-mile race. Racing starts at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, with a kid’s race at 4:40.
The race course will go counterclockwise through Union, East Beach, Lincoln, Center and Carr streets, and East Lake avenue
“It will snake through the streets of the city,” said Mattos. “That should bring different clientele to the event, who typically would not come.”
Bringing different clientele is very important to the event. Part of the goal of the festival is to further educate people on all things strawberry. In the hope, that they further incorporate the strawberry fruit into their diet.
More demand for strawberries could be boon for Watsonville in economic terms. The Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission estimates that the Watsonville-Salinas region was responsible for half of the strawberries that were produced in California last year. This is a more impressive figure when taking into account that 88 percent of strawberries in the United States are grown in California.
“We hope that people … get a chance to try strawberries in a number of different dishes other then just putting them on top of ice creams,” said Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director of California Strawberry Commission. “Recognizing how versatile strawberries can be to eat.”