“There’s something about the smell of corn dogs and cotton candy, combined with the sights and sounds of the carnival and performers, that makes you feel like a kid again.”
Santa Maria Fairpark CEO Richard Persons understands the lure of their two major events, the 30th Annual Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival (April 28 – 30) and 126th Annual Santa Barbara County Fair (July 12-16). The community atmosphere and the array of attractions both provide make these festivals a staple in Santa Maria.
30th Annual Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival to provide “A Jammin’ Good Time”
Each year the Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival highlights the valley’s most important crop; the strawberry. This year marks the 30th year of the festival, happening April 28 – April 30.
“The Festival attracts more than 70,000 people each year to indulge in some sweet strawberry desserts, and to have a little springtime fun,” Persons said. “With strawberries being such an important crop in the Santa Maria Valley, the event highlights not only the berries but also the growers who produce them.”
Along with its usual attractions, the family-friendly festival is adding some exciting new features for it’s 30th year in Santa Maria.
“We’re adding Buki the Clown and her Silly Slapsitck, Magical Comedy Show that makes kids attending the Festival the stars of the show,” Persons said. “And as attendees stroll the grounds they should also be on the lookout for the Balloonacy of Dennis Forel. He can twist ordinary balloons into hundreds of extraordinary creatures—and he’s got a story to tell with each one too!”
The festival also offers exhibits that highlight Santa Maria’s agriculture industry.
“We’ll have a fantastic hands-on learning exhibit called Ag-Ventureland that allows kids the chance to milk a cow, build a scarecrow, or even saddle a horse, as well as other ag-related activities.”
Persons says exhibits like Ag-Ventureland are a draw for families because they provide but fun and educational opportunities for kids. “This exhibit makes agriculture—and learning about it—fun!”
The festival is also bringing back it’s popular free strawberry tasting event, sponsored by California Women for Ag, with strawberries donated by local growers.
“People are always surprised at the number of varieties that exist, and how different they all taste,” Persons said. “It’s a great way for the community to learn just how many different types of strawberries our local growers produce, and educate themselves more on this huge part of our local agriculture industry.”
But even with all the new attractions, Persons says people’s reason for coming back each year remains the same; those sweet, delicious strawberries.
“Whether they are drizzled over funnel cake, covered in chocolate, topped with whipped cream, or simply fresh from the field, the Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival is the tastiest event in the valley,” he said. “The Central Coast has some of the best tasting strawberries around, and the Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival is a great place to taste them.”
Annual Santa Barbara County Fair is a summer tradition for community members
As any Santa Maria local will tell you, summer isn’t complete without a trip to the Santa Barbara County Fair.
“One of the things that makes the Santa Barbara County Fair different than larger fairs is that there is such a direct connection to the community,” Persons said. “If you’re new to the community, it’s a great way to get an introduction to what Santa Barbara County is all about because we focus on highlighting the community. But it’s also just a lot of fun, and attending the fair has become a tradition for many locals in the area.”
Persons says it’s common to see multiple generations of a family visit together.
“It’s not uncommon to see grandparents who attended as children, and later brought their own kids, visiting the Fair with their grandkids,” he explained. “It’s heartwarming to see that the event has that kind of connection with people.”
The Santa Barbara County Fair, happening July 12-16 this year, draws around 140,000 people each year. Highlights of the week-long event include the live music and livestock auctions.
“We are still in the process of confirming acts for the Fair, however, we always try to add several new exhibits and performers each year,” Persons said. “This year we can’t wait to present 38. Special, John Michael Montgomery, and Leann Rimes!”
The event as a whole is not only enjoyable to those who attend, but benefits the community as well.
“The Fair provides a place for local performers to share their talents with the community,” Persons explained. “Small and up-and-coming businesses also benefit from exposure to attendees by having a booth at the fair. And attendees get a sampling of all these great things that exist in their community—all in one place!”
Both the Strawberry Festival and Santa Barbara County Fair offer family-friendly fun and continue to remain summer staples in the Santa Maria community.
“People report that they visit our events at the Santa Maria Fairpark for the fair food, for the rides, and for the exhibits,” Persons said. “But above all I think it’s the memories. The Fair and Festival both bring back childhood memories for so many people, and then they get to create new ones.”
To learn more about the Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival and Santa Barbara County Fair, visit www.santamariafairpark.com