By Jim Tortolano/Garden Grove Journal
Some things are just worth repeating.
Mark Mahoney, this year’s president of the Garden Grove Strawberry Festival Association, knows that. The kid who drove his Model T Ford every day to Anaheim High School now owns three of the classic vehicles.
So it’s only natural that he succeeds his wife, Debbie, as the head of the organization, keeping leadership of the largest community event on the West Coast all in the family.
Mark, 57, a corporate credit manager and Debbie, 59, who supervises ushers at Honda Center met 23 years ago at – where else? – a Model T club event in Orange.
“I asked him if I could get a ride in his car,” said Debbie, and that led to a romance that eventually put the Mahoneys at the center of Garden Grove’s big annual event. They live in Anaheim, just a block away from the Garden Grove city limits.
(For those of you who don’t know what a Model T is, it was one of the first affordable, assembly line passengers cars. Over 15 million were built from 1908 to 1927. In 1915, you could buy one for $440.)
Debbie joined the SFA board of directors in 1999, invited by Diane Donovan, long active in the community and the wife of former mayor Walt Donovan. That, in turn, led to Mark’s involvement and eventual rise to the presidency.
In that role, he oversees dozens of volunteers who engineer the four-day festival (including the Saturday parade) which attracts upwards of 250,000 people annually.
“Debbie has been very helpful, “ said Mark. “She’d remind about things like ‘did you remember to order the [lapel] pins?’”
What attracts throngs to the Village Green every year, he believes, is that “it’s the biggest thing in the community.” But the event is not standing still. For one thing it’s getting more diverse, according to Debbie.
“About half of the booths are sponsored by Asian church groups,” she said.
But tradition is important, too. “People who grew up here going to the festival come back and bring their kids and grandkids,” Debbie said.
Evidently, a whole lot of people have found the festival something worth repeating, too.