Strawberry Festival gears up

Thousands of people flock to downtown Watsonville for the annual Watsonville Strawberry Festival every year. (Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian file)

WATSONVILLE — The 25th annual Watsonville Strawberry Festival is on cue for a three-day family-oriented bash starting today.

Honoring the 25th anniversary, the Friday Night Kick-off Party will offer $2 tickets on all rides at the festival’s carnival between 5:30-9:30 p.m., and live music and a gathering spot at Romo Field across Main Street from the plaza, said Recreation Supervisor Israel Tirado.

“We want to invite everyone to come down and make this a special year,” he said. “We hope to try to deliver something special.”

Also, new this year will be the Strawberry Jam Fun Run put on by the non-profit Friends of Parks and Community Services. The event starts at Ramsay Park Saturday at 7:45 a.m. with a 1k run for kids, said board member Alfonso Lobato. Then at 8 a.m., the adult 5K run begins. Lobato said both races wrap around several area sloughs and winds up back at Ramsay Park.

“Right now we have about 100 people that have signed up,” Lobato said. “But it’s a new event and you never know who might come and join in.”

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Face painter Kait Helms shows off a creation at a previous Watsonville Strawberry Festival. (The Pajaronian file)

Races will be coordinated by the Santa Cruz Track Club. Register on active.com or pick up a hard copy application at the Watsonville Parks and Community Services Department office at 231 Union St. Watsonville.

“We’ll have medals and shirts with the [new] running strawberry logo,” Lobato said. “The shirts are for everyone that registers. We hope people will treasure these items as special memorabilia. Our main goal is to promote health and wellness.”

The free festival will feature several pie-eating contests, food booths, numerous live bands and booths selling flats of strawberries to take home. Tirado said the event typically draws 30-35,000 people.

Additionally, City Councilman Felipe Hernandez said that a moment of silence will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. to honor the victims of the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival Sunday that left three people dead and several others injured.

“So far things are working out well and falling into place,” Tirado said. “I’m sure it will be a great time for everyone.”

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