By Bonnie Carroll
On March 3, 2020, the winner of the year’s California Strawberry Festival poster contest was officially announced, but sixteen days later, the festival was canceled due to the pandemic. Finally, after three years, artist Kimberly Duran’s winning poster became the center point of the festival on May 20 and 21 at the Ventura County Fairgrounds.
“We’ve been waiting to show off Kimberly’s design for three years,” says Dean Kato, festival chairperson. “She’s a gifted artist and her design captures the wonderful community spirit that’s always present at the festival.” Duran’s artwork was chosen from more than 60 entries.
I enjoyed speaking with Kimberly Duran during the festival and shared my amazement at her stunning artwork. Kimberly, who was thrilled to finally be able to display her beautiful award-winning poster, is a self-taught artist, which is hard to believe due to her outstanding and creative use of original artistic imagination and brilliant color statements.
Kimberly Duran is a Chicana muralist based out of Santa Ana, California. She is co-founder of the mural team, The Heavy, with artist Bud Herrera. Her work is on display throughout Southern California to Mexico City. The 2020 poster combines a message of love with her love of strawberries (which she eats every morning). She says the shape of a strawberry reminds her of a heart. “Spreading love one strawberry at a time.”
Poster artist Kimberly Duran proudly displays her winning poster (Photo: Bonnie Carroll)
The 37th Annual California Strawberry Festival a beloved traditional experience was moved to a new location at Ventura County Fairgrounds this year, and people told me they much preferred the larger and more family friendly space. The festival featured more than 50 food and beverage booths, mostly with strawberry inspired dishes or drinks, live entertainment, a Strawberryland fun zone, and Ninja Nation obstacle course.
VIPs savored the fine food and service of DJ’s California Catering in a colorful lounge decorated with historic strawberry festival posters. My guest and I met an interesting Malibu Chamber of Commerce grandmother and her visiting Costa Rican grandson to chat with over lunch, who were delighted to learn we were board members of the Santa Barbara Puerto Vallarta Sister Cities Board of Directors, and we had both traveled to Costa Rica and loved it. Also had fun meeting a few dedicated California Highway Patrol officers, California Sheriff’s, and emergency medical service members on-site who were sharing information and assisting anyone who needed them.
The build-your-own strawberry shortcake area was as usual a huge hit and was a delicious introduction for many to one amazing traditional strawberry dessert. Over 150 arts and crafts booths offered everything from chic cork purses, cookies & candy, to talented artists showing their work. Local growers were selling huge, sweet vine-ripened strawberries in baskets and flats that people were happily buying to enjoy at home as they left the grounds.
The KRUZ 103.3 radio guys kept it light with music all day and the Oxnard High School Yellow Jackets Marching Band had everyone rocking. Bravo to their band Master for an outstanding job directing this talented group of local young people! Live entertainment was scheduled throughout the day from 10 am to 6:30 pm and people seemed so relaxed and happy sitting on bales of hay eating delicious bites. It was fun to watch the families with kids enjoying themselves, and little people dressed in strawberry print clothing.
Food writer and 36th Strawberry Festival Judge Bonnie Carroll chats with Kruz 103.3 Radio Sponsors
As a veteran food writer, I’ve been a judge for the chef’s competition at the Strawberry Festival in past years and enjoyed tasting the unique recipes. Just before the pandemic at the 36th Festival Emily Falke, Deputy Director and Director of Education at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum won first place with her “Berry Blast Off” recipe. This year’s event happened too quickly to organize the recipe competition, but I hope to be here for the 38th festival to serve as a judge and taste some new and original chef creations.
General admission for the 2023 event was $15, active military and family with ID and seniors 62 and over, $10, youth ages 5 to 12, $8 and children four and under were free. Hours were 10:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. both days. A limited amount of parking was available onsite for $20 per vehicle, but free shuttles were running every 15 minutes from locations in Oxnard and Ventura. The Ventura Amtrak Station is onsite for out-of-area visitors.
Organizers reported people really enjoyed the new location, and their team will be organizing to work out any bumpy spots found at this first run in the Ventura Fairgrounds to make everything perfect for the 2024 California Strawberry Festival.