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Annual Strawberry Festival Aims To Cook Up ‘A Berry Good Time’

Three-day event planned for the Santa Maria Fairpark includes food, music, animal and carnival rides

Chef holding dish prepared with strawberries Click to view larger
Chef Scott Landry wil present cooking demonstrations during the Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival, which runs Friday through Sunday, at the Santa Maria Fairpark. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A cooking demonstration during the Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival will serve up a taste of berries and a touch of comedy for the next three days.

The annual Strawberry Festival opens Friday and runs through Sunday at the Santa Maria Fairpark, 937 S. Thornburg St., with berries and more available. 

The theme this year is “A Berry Good Time,” and once again a cooking demonstration will feature the red fruit that boasts the top spot among Santa Barbara County’s crops.

Chef Scott Landry, known for his Bayou-style cusine, will provide cooking demonstrations during three shows daily, with different recipes each time.

Treats he plans to demonstrate include a layered strawberry dessert, chocolate-dipped, liqueur-injected strawberrys, strawberry punch with Crown Royal popular at breakfast during Mardi Gras, strawberry creme pie, and strawberry bread pudding, a traditional Louisiana dish.

“We’re going to try to work in a whole lot in 30-minute shows throughout the day,” he said, adding that the recipes will change from show to show.

Fresh and sweet are key to cooking with strawberries, he said. 

“You cannot ever go wrong with cream and berries and sugar,” he added. “My grandmother used to say, ‘If it tasted good, it wasn’t good for you.’ We don’t charge extra for the calories.”

This will mark the Louisiana-based chef’s first appearance at the Strawberry Festival.

Chef Landry’s Cajun Comedy Cooking Show will occur daily at 12:30, 2:30, and 6:30 p.m. in the Strawberry Pavilion. 

Other attractions include rising country music artist Coffey Anderson and his band, who will perform at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday on Center Stage. 

Dessert made with strawberries Click to view larger
Strawberries, including those dipped in chocolate and featured in other ways, sit on a plate. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Once again the California Women for Ag will serve up free strawberry tasting, letting visitors sample four berries before ranking their favorites from noon to 4 p.m. all three days. 

They expect to serve up thousands of berries — the Monterey variety from Daren’s Berries, the San Andreas variety from Mar Vista and two proprietary varieties from Driscoll's and Manzanita Berry Farm. 

Most people don’t realize berries come in a different varieties, she said.

“They think a strawberry is a strawberry, an orange is an orange and a banana is a banana,” said Nancy Machut from Daren’s Berries and California Women for Agriculture.

Tasters also discover that looks don’t necessary equate color. 

“They all believe that it’s about the color and the redder the berry the sweeter the berry. That’s not always the case,” Machut said. 

The Wildlife Experience, based in Oak View in Ventura County, will show off assorted critters including a prairie dog, a kinkajou, a red-tailed hawk, a great horned owl, a skunk and more, according to handler Beverly Critcher.

Shows, at 2, 4 and 6 p.m. each day, include entertainment and education with a focus on conservation.

“It’s not just about animals and their natural history, but their plight in the wild, so we try to get that across,” she said. 

The organization has returned to Santa Maria following a winter that saw personnel and critters evacuated twice due to the Thomas Fire in December. 

“As long as we stayed calm, they stayed calm,” she said of the evacuation strategy.. 

The festival also will include rides and games at the Midway of Fun Carnival, which will be open daily noon to 11 p.m. with unlimited ride wristbands available for $35. However, from noon to 4 p.m. Friday, riders can buy one wristband and get the second free. 

Of course, festival goers can pick up a basket or flat of berries to take home from vendors at the Fairpark this weekend.

Festival gates will be be open noon to 10 p.m. all three days, with tickets prices $10 for ages 12 to 61, $7 for ages 6 to 11, and $7 for ages 62 and older. Children 5 and under will be admitted for free. Parking at the Fairpark costs $7.

On opening day, people 62 and older will be admitted for free, while Saturday admission is $1 for children ages 6 to 11.

Sunday is Fiesta Day, with Hispanic musical entertainment planned with separate ticket purchase required in addition to regular festival admission.

For a complete schedule click here.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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