In deference to COVID-19, the Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival will take a drive-through approach this year. The festival runs from April 28 to May 2 at the Santa Maria Fairpark, 937 S. Thornburg St. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival is returning in a new, COVID-19-safe way — from Wednesday to Sunday, April 28 to May 2 — at the Santa Maria Fairpark, with a drive-through “Strawberry Cruzin’” event.

While the 2020 Strawberry Festival had to be canceled due to COVID-19, the Santa Maria Fairpark wanted to bring the annual event back this year in a way that would still be safe to celebrate Santa Barbara County’s top crop.

“This is probably the safest way we knew we can execute something,” said Autumn Acquistapace, interim CEO for the Santa Maria Fairpark.

The event will feature six food vendors, along with local vendors selling fresh strawberries, and a booth selling novelty items, such as light-up toys for kids.

Visitors to Strawberry Cruzin’ will receive a map of the event and drive through the fairpark adorned with strawberry decorations to get to each vendor. They can then park outside their desired food booth to order food in a carhop style and food orders will be delivered to their vehicles.

Each food booth lot can fit eight to ten cars, and the drive-through entrance will begin at Gate 5 of the fairpark.

The food vendors include Fanny’s Fabulous Funnel Cakes, Old West Cinnamon Rolls, Log Cabin Kettle Corn, The Giant Cone, Noel’s Mexican Food, Colossal Dogs, and strawberries from Pete’s Berries.

“We didn’t want to not have [the Strawberry Festival],” said Mary Beth Mize, owner and operator of Fanny’s Fabulous Funnel Cakes, along with her husband Ron. “To not do it didn’t feel right.”

Mize has already experienced multiple drive-through festivals and fairs, with Fresno and San Mateo County taking similar approaches featuring Fanny’s funnel cakes.

Despite the drive-through events not attracting as many people as traditional fairs and requiring more employees to box and deliver food orders, Mize has enjoyed this take on the events as it is a way to still honor the fair traditions.

“The community is just happy to support their fair,” Mize said. “We’re just happy they came.”

Activity books, provided by the California Strawberry Commission, will also be available for kids to pick up for free.

Admission to Strawberry Cruzin’ is a donation of any amount to the Santa Maria Fairpark Foundation, which will go towards youth scholarships and the 2021 Junior Livestock Virtual Show and Auction.

“[The donation amount] is whatever you are comfortable with,” Acquistapace said. “We don’t want anyone to be excluded.”

The fairpark has also sold at least 15 sponsorships for $800 each. These “Sweet Sponsors” will have their logos displayed on 4-foot strawberries, which will decorate the drive-through’s illuminated path, as well as on a 2-by-6-foot banner, the Santa Maria Fairpark’s social media pages, and on the event’s map. 

Along with the 4-foot strawberries, a variety of strawberry-themed decorations will grace the fairpark, such as an area to “mimic strawberry fields” with tractors and strawberry-growing tools, and an area decorated to look like a carnival.

There will even be a vintage car display, and the roller rink office will be transformed into a strawberry shortcake house.

In addition to the food, the fairpark’s stage will feature performances from Francesca Jule’s Tribute to David Cassidy and Barry Manilow on May 1 and May 2, according to Acquistapace.

Strawberry Cruzin’ will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. April 28 and April 29, and from noon to 8 p.m. April 30 through May 2 at the Santa Maria Fairpark, 937 S. Thornburg St.

Serena Guentz is a local freelance writer. Contact her at