By Kathy Lee Scott/Garden Grove Journal
Sunny skies combined with cool breezes made for perfect weather, according to Don Nielsen, an associate director of the Strawberry Festival of Garden Grove.
And attendees agreed, as around 225,000 thronged to the 52nd annual, four-day Strawberry Festival held Memorial Day weekend on the Village Green.
Because there’s no admission to the festival, Gary Sunda, president of the festival board, couldn’t say how many people attended. “We rely on the police estimate,” he said.
Amid rides provided by Butler Amusements, Inc., game and food booths hosted by local nonprofit groups, as well as contests featuring redheads, festival visitors could wander among vendors offering massages, beaded handbags and bubble guns.
People from out of state and nearby counties turned up.
A family drove from Riverside to attend the festival for the first time. Nicholle Robinson said the festival’s website persuaded them to make the trip. “It seemed like a nice family activity,” her husband, George, said.
Siblings Kasey and Danny Nguyen, 13 and 11 respectively, traveled from Vancouver, Wash., to visit friends and ended up at the festival. Danny said he had fun, while Kasey said she had a headache.
A Stanton couple, Sid and Lorraine Villegas, brought their two young children to the festival. “It’s cheap entertainment for the children,” Sid said.
Anaheim resident Christiana James came to the festival for the pageants. “I used to be in it,” she said. “Now my cousin is.”
Edith Kershaw of Huntington Beach said, “It was about time to come again.” She and her daughter had come to the festival several times, but their last visit was 15 years ago. “It’s about the same as before,” Kershaw added.
A couple of teens from Irvine drove up to help the Lion’s Club with its booth. Nick Lockwood, 14, hadn’t known anything about the festival before this year. His friend, Ryan Soltes, 15, said, “I would have come” after learning about it.
While one of the primary events for nonprofits to raise money, the festival itself earned $80,000, about the same as last year, Sunda said. The festival board shares the income from the rides with the operator.
“Saturday was our highest grossing Saturday ever,” he said. But Friday wasn’t as good as last year’s. “So it evened out,” Sunda added.
While the festival board counts the money the nonprofits earn from their festival booths, the funds don’t go through the board. “The groups keep all of their earnings,” Sunda said.
Counting their profits brings the total sum raised closer to $400,000, he added.
Last year, the festival board gave away around $80,000 to local charities, according to Sunda. “The (nonprofit) groups request money for specific uses,” he said. “The committee decides who gets how much.”
The Boys and Girls and Kiwanis clubs have received funding in past years.
None of the grants can cover any salaries, Sunda added, just “capital expenses.”
The vendors manning the booths offer few new ones over the years.
However, one new participant this year, the Community Emergency Response Team, offered to host a first-aid booth. The festival hadn’t set up such a booth before, Sunda said.
Van Vu, CERT facilitator, reported they administered to 34 minor injuries as of Sunday afternoon. “Cuts, scrapes, cool down people who got too hot,” she said. One lady had a stroke and a girl seized, she added. “We called the fire department for them.”
Sunda hoped to have them back next year.
The Jewelry by Nelly booth operator, John S. (he declined to give a last name), thought the heat slowed the crowds. “It’s about the same as last year,” he said.
According to Tim Stillman, who ran one of Greg’s Amusements’ game booths, “no one is hesitating to play.
“We had a lot of winners last year, and they came back with friends,” he said.
Police Sgt. M.L. Martin reported minimal problems during the four days. “We contacted a few gang members who showed up and moved them along,” he said.
“Overall, it was a great year,” Sunda said.