Home » I spent the day at the Watsonville Strawberry Festival, one of California’s quirkiest celebrations

I spent the day at the Watsonville Strawberry Festival, one of California’s quirkiest celebrations

by Marjorie

It’s my agency perception that each small city in America ought to have a lighthearted regional pageant themed round a selected native meals. Gilroy has its garlic pageant. Monterey County has one dedicated to artichokes. Mendocino County has an annual Apple Present (whereas Sebastopol, simply down Freeway 101, has a whole pageant celebrating apple blossoms). The Seattle suburb the place I used to be born and raised is understood for its salmon pageant, which is especially near my coronary heart.

Additionally it is my perception that the very best case situation for stated themed pageant (sorry to the Yale Bologna Competition, the West Virginia Roadkill Prepare dinner-off and the Texas Testicle Competition) is to your metropolis’s crowning achievement to be one thing as cheery and candy because the strawberry. And Watsonville, California, is that lucky place. Strawberries are one of many space’s major crops, and berry big Driscoll’s firm headquarters are inside metropolis limits. The agricultural hub, one and a half hours south of San Francisco, is the self-declared (however doubtful) “Strawberry Capital of the World.”

This 12 months’s Watsonville Strawberry Competition, full with strawberry-themed snacks and stay music, occurred Aug. 8, 2021.

Madeline Wells/SFGATE

Final weekend, the beloved Watsonville Strawberry Competition returned for the primary time since 2019. Usually a three-day occasion drawing 30,000 to 40,000 folks, this 12 months’s iteration was scaled all the way down to at some point and dropped the carnival part due to COVID-19. However with an abundance of strawberry-themed snacks, artwork and music, the smaller pageant was nonetheless a joyful return for the sweetest place on Earth.

As a lifelong strawberry obsessive (I’ve the strawberry tattoo to show it), I thought of the drive to Watsonville from my Oakland residence as a little bit of a pilgrimage. For the primary time, I didn’t really feel ridiculous pairing my strawberry earrings with my strawberry-patterned shirt. I had a sense I wouldn’t be the one one dressing up.

Sonora Santanera La Nueva Sangre performs on the main stage at the Watsonville Strawberry Festival on Aug. 8, 2021.

Sonora Santanera La Nueva Sangre performs on the primary stage on the Watsonville Strawberry Competition on Aug. 8, 2021.

Madeline Wells/SFGATE

And I used to be right. Instantly upon entering into the pageant’s busy grounds, I used to be upstaged by a younger girl in a full-body strawberry mascot costume, full with a tiara. She smiled winningly and waved her elegantly gloved palms for a photograph. I later realized she held the illustrious title of Watsonville Strawberry Princess.

I additionally glimpsed somebody carrying the TikTok-famous sequined strawberry costume — a uncommon real-life encounter with a viral social media phenomenon. The dress-wearer paired it with a curly brilliant purple wig and a chunky strawberry necklace. On the Strawberry Competition, it’s go huge or huge residence.

A vendor at this year's Watsonville Strawberry Festival on Aug. 8, 2021.

A vendor at this 12 months’s Watsonville Strawberry Competition on Aug. 8, 2021.

Madeline Wells/SFGATE

What makes these quirkily themed regional festivals such a delight is that they’re a chance to get artistic with themed meals. The place else on this planet, I ask you, would you discover strawberry tacos on pink tortillas, strawberry pizza, strawberry waffles and strawberry paletas all on a single metropolis block?

Out of this abundance of strawberry-centric choices, I made a decision on a slice of strawberry pizza. Its surprising purple topping nestled amongst bits of sausage on a mattress of garlicky cheese. Biting into it, my senses have been initially confused about whether or not I used to be consuming one thing candy or savory. However it was good — surprisingly so. The strawberries broke up the saltiness of the cheese and sausage just like the chunks of pineapple on a Hawaiian pizza.

Strawberry pizza is a must-try at the Watsonville Strawberry Festival.

Strawberry pizza is a must-try on the Watsonville Strawberry Competition.

Madeline Wells/SFGATE

For dessert, I went with a much less adventurous alternative: fresas con crema. The mixture of recent, tart strawberries topped with a mountain of sweetened cream by no means fails, particularly whereas mendacity within the solar listening to the boisterous orchestra of Sonora Santanera La Nueva Sangre.

Sweeter nonetheless, the proceeds from the meals bought on the Strawberry Competition benefited native nonprofit teams just like the Pajaro Valley Training Basis and Households in Transition, whereas the occasion acknowledged the native agricultural staff selecting the starring fruit with the “Watsonville Campesino Appreciation Caravan.”

You can't go wrong with fresas con crema.

You possibly can’t go incorrect with fresas con crema.

Madeline Wells/SFGATE

“They’re at all times on the market. They’re at all times on the market selecting the strawberries and this pageant is due to them,” Ruby Vasquez, a part of the appreciation caravan, advised KION Information.


Whereas the Watsonville Strawberry Competition was extra low-key than common this 12 months — I might’ve beloved to go on a strawberry-themed teacup experience or attempt the 35 totally different strawberry meals gadgets in 2019’s pageant — the temper was considered one of outsized pleasure.

Right here’s hoping that in 2022, Watsonville can honor its ruby purple crown jewel in full, over-the-top kind.

This year's Watsonville Strawberry Festival, complete with strawberry-themed snacks and live music, took place on Aug. 8, 2021.

This 12 months’s Watsonville Strawberry Competition, full with strawberry-themed snacks and stay music, occurred on Aug. 8, 2021.

Madeline Wells/SFGATE

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