Each Memorial Day weekend (since 1958), the city of Garden Grove puts on their annual Strawberry Festival, a fun, four-day event with a small-town feel. The Village Green park becomes the temporary home to one of the largest and finest carnivals in the Southland. Plus there are hundreds of colorful booths filled with local vendors offering every imaginable handicraft - toys, artwork, jewelry, housewares, teddy bears... you name it.
The Strawberry Festival event draws a big crowd. During its four days, it attracts over 250,000 people each year; sponsors say it's the second-largest community-sponsored event in the Western United States, with the proceeds benefiting more than 150 charities.
The Strawberry Festival parade features TV & movie stars and a Celebrity Grand Marshal. Granted, the celebs usually tend to be minor ones, but it's a fun community event.
This year, the Strawberry Festival
Parade will take place on Saturday, May 26,
The 2012 Grand Marshal will be TV's Mariette Hartley. Other celebs in the parade will include Damien McGinty ('Rory Flanagan' on "Glee"), Karan Brar ('Ravi' on the Disney Channel’s "Jessie"), Charlie O’Connell ("The Bachelor", 7th season), Kate Linder ('Esther Valentine' on "The Young and the Restless", and three members of the cast of the TV crime drama "The Closer", including Michael Paul Chan ('Mike Tao'), Raymond Cruz ('Julio Sanchez') and Phillip P. Keene ('Buzz Watson').
Celebrity participants in the
2011 parade included Grand Marshal Rico
on "Modern Family"), Christina Robinson
('Astor' on "Dexter"), Anneliese van der Pol
('Chelsea' on "That's So Raven"),
('Esther Valentine' on "The Young
and the Restless"), as well as "Goofy" and "Snoopy",
and others. You can see the full list here.
In 2010, celebrity participants in the parade included late pianist Roger Williams (the Grand Marshal), as well as Peggy McCay ('Caroline Brady' on the NBC soap "Days of Our Lives"), Kate Linder ('Esther Valentine' on "The Young and the Restless"), several child actors (including two from "Hannah Montana") and animated characters.
In 2007, the Strawberry Festival Parade took place on Saturday, May 26, 2007. The celebrity Grand Marshal was the legendary Mickey Rooney ("Andy Hardy", "Boys Town", "Babes in Arms", "Night at the Museum") and his wife Jan. Other stars in the parade included Dick Van Patten (the dad on "Eight is Enough"), Masiela Lusha ('Carmen' on "The George Lopez Show"), Alison Arngrim (the nasty 'Nellie Oleson' from "Little House on the Prairie"), Jonathan Lipnicki (the kid in "Jerry McGuire"), and several soap stars, among others.
The 2006 Strawberry Festival took place on Memorial Day Weekend, May 26-29, 2006, with the parade held on Saturday, May 27. The Grand Marshal was 'The Beav', actor Jerry Mathers of TV's "Leave It To Beaver". Other celebs riding in the parade included Masiela Lusha (George's daughter 'Carmen' on "The George Lopez Show"), Alison Arngrim ("Little House on the Prairie"), Dee Dee Davis ('Baby Girl' on "The Bernie Mac Show"), and more.
The Grand Marshals for 2005 were Shirley Jones & Marty Ingels. You'll remember Shirley from such classic Hollywood musicals as "The Music Man", "Carousel" and "Oklahoma!", as well as the TV series "The Partridge Family", and recent appearances on "The Drew Carey Show".
In 2004, the celebrity Grand Marshal for the 45th annual parade was Michael Welch, who plays 'Luke Girardi' on the TV show "Joan of Arcadia". Other stars riding in the parade include legendary child star Margaret O'Brien ("Meet me in St. Louis", "The Canterville Ghost"), the Sweeten twins from "Everybody Loves Raymond" (Sullivan & Sawyer), and Kate Linder, who plays 'Esther Valentine' on the TV soap opera "The Young & the Restless" (and who was the celebrity Grand Marshall in 2003). That's in addition to eight Olympic medalists.
In 2002, the celebrity Grand Marshall was actress Hayley Duff, sister of Hilary Duff (Disney's "Lizzie McGuire"). Other celebs in the parade included Courtnee Draper ("The Bold and the Beautiful"), Evan Bonifant (riding in the "Blues Brothers 2000"car), former California Angels pitcher Dave Frost, Smokey the Bear and the Looney Tune Characters.
In 2001, Ed Arnold was Grand Marshal - he was a longtime sports anchor on KTLA (Channel 5), and now serves as announcer for the Crystal Cathedral's weekly "Hour of Power" broadcasts. Other celebs riding in the parade included actress Kimberlin Brown (who plays 'Dr. Rachel Locke' on the TV soap "Port Charles" and was 'Sheila Carter' on "The Bold & the Beautiful") and lots of child actors: Courtnee Draper, star of the Disney Channel’s "The Jersey", local child actress Michaela Gallo (who was in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and played 'Julia' on the TV series, "Seventh Heaven"), Camilla Belle (who was in "Jurassic Park II" and played a young Sandra Bullock in "Practical Magic"), Carly Schroeder ('Serena Baldwin' on "General Hospital"), Miko Hughes ("Roswell") and more. Plus 350 other entries including equestrian units, marching bands, floats and local politicians.
In 2000, the Grand Marshal was comedian Hal Sparks, host of TV's "Talk Soup." Other celebrities riding in the parade included Billy Barty, Justin Berfield ('Reese' on "Malcom in the Middle"), Ryan Merriman ('young Jarod' from "The Pretender"), Eric Loyd ('Little John' from "Jesse"), Zack Hopkins ('Apache' on "Movie Stars"), Kimberlin Brown ('Dr. Rachel Locke' on "Port Charles"), Carly Schroeder ('Serena Baldwin' from "Port Charles"), Michaela Gallo (from "Beethoven's Third") and hockey player Sean O'Neil from the L.A. Kings.
1999, the Grand Marshal was none other than actor/comedian Pauly Shore,
star of such films as "Bio-Dome," "Son-In-Law,"
"Jury Duty" and "Encino Man."
Other recent Grand Marshals have included singer Pat Boone, showman Ben Vereen, the stars of the former NBC sitcom "The Mommies" and the "Caryl & Marilyn" talk show (Marilyn Ketz & Caryl Kristensen), Earl Holliman (Sgt. Bill Crowley on TV's "Police Woman"), The Platters, and the best-known little person in Hollywood, Billy Barty.
The parade is followed by an autograph session, where you can get the stars' signatures. (And the late Billy Barty, who was there almost every year, usually stuck around to emcee the children's contests. Alas, Billy passed away last year. He will be missed.)
In past years, celebs riding in the 40-year-old parade included actress Jayne Mansfield (who rode in the 1961 parade with then Governor 'Pat' Brown), actress Sally Field, and Robert F. Kennedy (who came in 1968, just before he was assassinated).
But this is basically a small-town event, and most of the parade entries are likely to be marching groups of local children, police on horseback and trucks full of white-robed Job's Daughters. Still, an estimated 175,000 people showed up to watch this year's parade.
The Festival also features a host of old-fashioned, small-town events, such as a large Strawberry Parade, a pancake breakfast, strawberry pie-eating contests, a strawberry blonde contest, band concerts, etc. One key event is the cutting of one of the world's largest strawberry shortcakes, right on Main Street - a cake made up of over 960 pints of strawberries, and 36 gallons of whipped cream, that serves 4,000 people!
The festival attracts a particularly congenial crowd of friendly revelers, and manages to preserve the tranquil, nostalgic feel of a small-town celebration. The small-town nature of the event is enhanced by the unique setting of the carnival. Instead of sitting atop the hot blacktop of a parking lot, as most modern carnivals do, the carnival rides at the Strawberry Festival rest in the middle of a grassy park. So you'll find green lawns underfoot and shady trees between the attractions. And the locals seem genuinely friendly.
There are strawberry tarts for sale, plus strawberry bread, and strawberries & cream. And the carnival itself is the best-looking one you are likely to see anywhere outside of a State or County Fair.
Parade route: It starts at the corner of Chapman Avenue and 9th Street, heads west on Chapman Avenue, then turns south onto Euclid and marches to the Village Green park.
Festival is held for four days each May, Friday-Monday, over the Memorial
Day weekend. The Parade usually begins at 10 AM on Saturday,
with the celebrity autograph session following around noon - but be sure
to phone for the exact times and dates of this year's events. Typical hours
for the festival are: Fri: 1 PM - 8 PM.; Sat, Sun & Mon:
10 AM -10 PM.
Getting there: The city of Garden Grove is located just southwest of Disneyland, between Katella (on the north) and the Garden Grove (22) Freeway (on the south). The Strawberry festival grounds are located on the east side of Main Street, north of Acacia Parkway. / From Disneyland, take the Garden (22) Grove Freeway west to the Euclid Street exit, and go north about one mile to Garden Grove Boulevard, turn left (west) on Garden Grove Boulevard and go (three blocks) to Main Street. Turn right (north) on Main Street.
[For more information, you can access the festival's official website at: http://www.strawberryfestival.org.]
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