What started off as a jubilee to bring different neighborhoods of Garden Grove together would become a celebration to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors decades later.
The 59th annual Garden Grove Strawberry Festival, running May 26 to 29 at the Village Green between Main Street and Euclid Avenue in Garden Grove, will hold live musical performances, games, contests and rides while also raising money for local charities.
Since the first festival in 1958, the event has raised more than $6 million for charities benefiting children’s nonprofits, homeless and abuse shelters and other organizations, according to a news release.
Earnings from the festival, which is considered a nonprofit organization, also have gone to projects in the city , such as the children’s wing of the central library, amphitheater seating and a building for the Garden Grove Boys and Girls Club.
Last year’s festival opened its gates to more than 300,000 visitors.
The inaugural Strawberry Festival was organized by the Garden Grove Chamber of Commerce to commemorate the area’s rich strawberry fields of the time.
The event is now organized by a group of 40 on their board of directors and associates, who select a new president each year to brainstorm the latest theme for the annual festival.
This year’s theme involves superheroes.
“The first things that came to mind were volunteering and philanthropy work,” said Strawberry Festival President Laura Neuschafer. “I care a lot about giving and when you’re given a lot, you should care about giving who you are. I wanted those people to be recognized.”
One of the heroes Neuschafer is determined to acknowledge is THINK Together founder and chief executive Randy Barth, who will be a grand marshal in the festival’s May 27 parade alongside Burt Ward, who played Robin in the ABC show “Batman” in the 1960s.
The Strawberry Festival will welcome visitors on the first day with a strawberry cake cutting ceremony at 6 p.m. May 26.
The May 27 morning parade – featuring Miss California Outstanding Teen 2016 Jenna Tower, Miss Garden Grove 2017 Missy Mendoza and other celebrities – will start at 9th and Chapman streets. The Strawberry Idol Karaoke Contest for youth ages 16 and older will also take place May 27 at the amphitheater at 12852 Main St., Garden Grove.
May 28 and 29 will include musical performances, the Berry, Berry Beautiful Baby Pageant and the Redhead Roundup Contest.
Festival hours are 1 to 10 p.m. May 26; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. May 27 and 28; and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. May 29.
Admission is free.
For a full schedule of events, visit strawberryfestival.org.