For More Kicks, Strawberry Lovers Gotta Toe the Line

Zan Dubin covers the arts for The Times Orange County Edition.

The key ingredient added to this year's Garden Grove Strawberry Festival isn't another gallon of whipped cream for the "world's largest strawberry shortcake." It's a way to work off all those calories: line dancing.

"Country Strawberry" is the theme of the 36th annual fete, chosen because "we wanted to do something that would give the whole family more things to do, like line dancing," said festival president Stu Finkelstein.

The six-member Kountry Sass troupe will be tush-pushing and giving line dance lessons on Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m., and live country music will be provided by the Kelly Rae Band on Main Street between Acacia Parkway and Stanford Avenue at the festival's Showmobile.

Relax. A good line dancer isn't necessarily one with nonpareil technique or even the right, tight jeans, says Julie Weith, Kountry Sass' manager.

"It's someone who's having fun," explains Weith, who says she choreographed the hopping popular line dance "Honky Tonk Attitude." "It doesn't matter if they have the steps right. Sometimes people get up and take it very, very seriously, like school."

Some 200,000 attended last year's festival, which began in 1958 as a celebration of the berry that was then one of Orange County's biggest crops. About the same number are expected at this weekend's event, which will also to feature clogging, square dancing and trick roping exhibitions as well as the usual carnival games, rides, arts and craft sale and food. Free slices of strawberry shortcake will go to 4,000 lucky comers on Friday beginning at 6 p.m. at the Showmobile.

Actors Earl Holliman and Billy Barty will preside as grand marshal and emcee, respectively, and other Hollywood and sports celebrities will march in Saturday's 10:30 a.m. parade and sign autographs afterward. The parade takes a one-mile route, starting at the corner of 9th Street and Chapman Avenue, and winding up two hours later near the Village Green at the corner of Stanford Avenue and Euclid Street.

Miss Garden Grove & Friends will stage a musical revue at the Festival Amphitheatre (the site of all activities except the parade, autograph session and Saturday's line dancing) Sunday evening at 7:30. Monday's lineup features the annual "Redhead Round-Up" contest at 4 p.m. Open to all ages, the contest will include entrants with the "best strawberry blond" hair and "most freckles."

The four-day festival is free, but charities will once again receive all proceeds from fees charged by ride operators, according to Finkelstein, a Garden Grove Police Department lieutenant. In the past 35 years, nearly $2 million has been donated to a wide variety of groups, many of them in Garden Grove.

What: 36th annual Garden Grove Strawberry Festival.

When: Friday, May 27, 1 to 11:30 p.m.; Saturday, May 28, 10 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, May 29, noon to 11:30 p.m.; Monday, May 30, 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Where: Village Green, 12862 Euclid St., Garden Grove.

Whereabouts: From the Garden Grove (22) Freeway, exit at Euclid Avenue and go north.

Wherewithal: Admission is free; separate charges for rides, games and food.

Where to call: (714) 638-0981.

A Strawberry Schedule

Except where noted, the following activities take place at the Festival Amphitheatre, 12852 Main St., Garden Grove.

FRIDAY * 3-5 p.m.: "Tiny Tot King and Queen" contest for kids age 3 to 6. * 6 p.m.: Strawberry shortcake cutting at the Showmobile on Main Street between Acacia Parkway and Stanford Avenue. * 7:30 p.m.: Welcoming ceremonies, introducing 1993-94 Miss Garden Grove, plus performances by Western Union and Kountry Sass.

SATURDAY * 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Parade with grand marshal Earl Holliman. Starts at the corner of 9th Street and Chapman Avenue. * 12:30 p.m.: Celebrity autograph session at a booth on Main Street near Stanford Avenue. * 1-3 p.m.: Kountry Sass line dancing and live country music by the Kelly Rae Band at the festival's Showmobile. * 7:30 p.m.: 10th annual talent show. For applications, call (714) 893-1823.

SUNDAY * 1 p.m.: Country Store band. * 2 p.m.: Orange County Song and Dance Company. * 3:30 p.m.: Country Cousins. * 4 p.m.: Berry Berry Beautiful Baby Pageant for children 3 months to 3 years old. Applications available at Courtyard Center of Village Green from 1 to 3 p.m. * 7:30 p.m.: Miss Garden Grove & Friends in a musical review.

MONDAY * 1 p.m.: Colony of Performing Arts. * 3 p.m.: The Dance Factory. * 4 p.m.: Annual Redhead Round-Up contest.

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