SANTA MARIA, Calif. - There is a berry good time happening at the Santa Maria Fairpark this weekend and for good reason. The Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival is back again, this time celebrating its 30th anniversary.
A number of different activities are lined for the thousands of visitors who will attend the three-day long festival. However, nothing is more popular than the namesake fruit of the festival.
"They're local and they're fresh and they're good for you and they're good on waffles too," said Josie Heighes of Santa Maria, who has been attending the festival since it first opened.
The big, juicy red berries are the star attraction during the event, which is perfect for many of vendors, including Little Pete's Farms, which is selling strawberries near the entrance.
"There's a lot of people coming in this weekend and it's a way for us to promote our berries and our stand and also we have a lot of fun," said Ana Ybarra of Little Pete's Farms, while taking a rare break between sales.
Nearly 80,000 people are expected to attend the festival over the next three days. They'll enjoy a variety of activities, such as the carnival, educational opportunities, shopping, concerts, artwork, food and even cooking demonstrations.
"People can come here and learn how to use strawberries in more than just eating them," said cooking host Dianne Linderman. "There are a million ways to use strawberries if you want to get creative and think of it as a replacement for something else."
One of the highlights of the festival is certainly the strawberry tasting in the Honda and Toyota Strawberry Pavilion. Visitors have the chance to sample and rate four locally grown berries, all for no charge.
"I like tasting them, the ones that are grown here in the valley," said Bob Stanton of Santa Maria. "It's hard to make a decision. They're all really good!"
The berries are particularly good right now in large part to ideal growing conditions this year on the Central Coast.
"The crop is now doing very, very well. That little bit of rain that we had and lots of sunshine is perfect for the strawberries to grow," said Nancy Machut, California Women for Agriculture member.
The Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival runs April 28-30. Hours of operation are 11 a.m to 10 p.m. daily.
Admission for adults is $10, Seniors 62+ and children 6-11 is $7, while kids under the age of five are free.
For more information, visit: Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival.