by Rey Andres
Dale Carnegie whose book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” sold 10 million copies in 1936 was quoted to have said “If life gives you lemons, make lemonades.” which means to make the best of situations.
In the City of Garden Grove where once strawberry field abounded, the popular fruit was a blessing and one that had been an inspiration for a festival which today remains one that still draws thousands over Memorial Weekends. Life gave Garden Grove residents strawberries and they a festival out of it.
The Annual Garden Grove Strawberry Festival , now on its 55th year, will be held on May 24-27, and started out as a public relations event in 1958 of the Garden Grove Chamber of Commerce “to celebrate the area’s then prolific strawberry fields and as way of bringing together the east and west sides of Garden Grove.”
The event was first held at a vacant lot and ultimate evolved into a very successful annual gathering that not only accomplished its purpose but became one of the most awaited festivals in this side of the U.S. drawing thousands with its new and novel attractions to make the visit worthwhile.
The annual spectacle, now managed by the nonprofit group Garden Grove Strawberry Festival, has become a tremendous blessing to the community that brought various sectors of the community together for charitable reason.
Since its inception, the event has contributed over $6 million to hundreds of deserving charities in the community.
The organization is fully independent of the City of Garden Grove and has even extended many benefits to the city from the festival’s proceeds for its numerous city projects including its police and fire departments. Profits generated have been used to build the amphitheater sitting, showmobiles, the children’s wing of the city’s central library, a police command post, the twin towers in Atlantis Park and a building for the Garden Grove Boys and Girls Club. Deserving students have also benefited from the proceeds through scholarship grants as well as local schools which also share a piece of the pie.
In addition, charities such as Kiwanisland, homeless and abuse shelters and children’s non-profits have also shared in the proceeds. Service groups, the only ones allowed to sell food at the festival, also generate their own fund for their organizations,
Last year’s event netted close to $120,000 which were awarded to 12 nonprofit organizations who got awards ranging from $2,000 to $32,000 for their capital improvements and equipment.
Recipients of last year’s proceeds included Acacia Adult Day Services, Boys and Girls Clubs, H.O.P.E., One More Productions, Kiwanisland, Senior Serv, and the Guardettes, the Downtown Business Association, Historical Society, Fire Department, Channel 3, and The Courtyard Center and funding a new roof
and patio, camera equipment, stage curtains, safety and computer equipment, and building refurbishments, according to Donations Committee Chair Debbie Mahoney.
More than 2,000 children with special needs also have their day of free rides and food at the festival.
The Garden Grove Strawberry Festival is the 2nd largest of its kind in the Western United States and had been graced in the past by celebrities like Steve Martin, Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jimmy Durante, Connie Haines, Jayne Mansfield, Jane Powell, The Carpenters, Sebastian Cabot and others.
Festival host Garden Grove (pop. 170,000) is one of the top 25 cities for doing business in and is a “bustling and successful city with homes, schools, churches and businesses.” It is known outside California as being the home of the former Crystal Cathedral of Robert H. Shuller and the city with the second largest Vietnamese-American population.