Every year on the third weekend in May, the Ventura County town of Oxnard celebrates its agricultural bounty at the two-day California Strawberry Festival. They have good reason to celebrate: This coastal community 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles is one of California’s biggest strawberry-growing regions, producing 36 million trays of the ruby-red fruit annually, according to the California Strawberry Commission. The weekend at Oxnard’s College Park usually brings in about 200 artists, 50 food vendors, and dozens of entertainers.
No surprise, this California food festival translates into a lot of berry-eating: a whopping 1.5 million strawberries are typically consumed over the two days here. Expect plenty of strawberry margaritas and chocolate-dipped strawberries, as well as creative renderings such as strawberry tamales, strawberry beer, strawberry nachos, strawberry pizza, and deep-fried strawberries on a stick. Traditionalists can build their own strawberry shortcakes with a variety of toppings, while hardy strawberry fans can enter the strawberry-pie-eating contest (no utensils are allowed—your mouth does all the work).
Once your lips are stained brilliantly red, wander beyond the food stalls. Among the buzz of cooking demonstrations, live concerts, kiddie carnival rides, magic shows, and face-painting booths, don’t miss a few stand-out contests, like the Berry Blast Off Recipe Contest, a Strawberry Smackdown, and a Strawberry Baby Fashion Show, where adorable toddlers dressed up as strawberries parade across the festival stage.
All this revelry goes to good causes, too, with the farm festival proceeds benefitting nonprofit charities in Oxnard. To avoid the festival entrance lines, purchase your tickets online, and make parking easy by riding the free shuttle departing from several locations near Highway 101 in Oxnard.