Garden Grove Mayor Steve Jones often refers to his home town as “our little Mayberry.”
Of course, the Big Strawberry is much closer to “big” than little, with a population of about 175,000 people. (Fun fact: Garden Grove has more people than 25 state capitals). But he’s right in the sense that it often has a small-town feel and never more than on Memorial Day weekend.
That’s when the Strawberry Festival – now in its 63rd version – turns the Village Green park in the downtown area into something out of, well, “Mayberry RFD.”
Organized and run entirely by volunteers, the event covers four days and brings as many as a quarter of a million people to town to experience something that’s a sweet throwback to a simpler time of cotton candy, Ferris wheels, parades and calliope music.
The event has survived changing times and ethnic mix, several recessions, a pandemic and more. As a testament to its enduring appeal, after two years of COVID-19 hiatus, the 2022 event was arguably the biggest and most successful ever.
This is the place for first dates, fun-scary rides, establishing and returning to traditions and – of course – a wide variety of strawberry-based desserts.
The folks who remember the good old days of the late 50s and 60s when Garden Grove was evolving from its rural past into its suburban next stage when there were strawberry fields (or strawberry stands) every third corner are now in their 70s and 80s. “Closing time” for that generation is not too far off.
The Strawberry Festival, as much as anything else, was the red thread that took this place from town to city to almost-big city. If you want to revisit the good old days or discover what they were like, I’ll meet you at Main and Euclid for … here comes the pun … “Strawberry RFD.”
P.S. Thanks to Ammy and crew for doing it all for us.