This a combination of both staff writers about the Vista’s Strawberry Festival ….
An overcast May day did not stop thousands of North County folks and other visitors from attending the annual Vista Strawberry Festival that has become a perfect start to the summer and a precursor to the San Diego County Fair that begins the following week. This popular festival had something for everyone filling all of the streets of Historic Downtown Vista.
Free Shuttles ran from a variety of locations around the Vista area transporting those that wanted a free ride right up to the start of the festival. Others parked around a variety of parking lots surround downtown Vista and by 10 am most of the surrounding lots were full making parking at a premium. The Strawberry Festival begins every year with a 5K race, followed by a 10K race and then a mile race for youngsters.
Race participants formed up in the fields adjacent to Citrus then moved to the start of the race on the East end of E. Broadway for the countdown. The race winds through the streets of Vista with the finish line at the end of Main Street and back on to the fields where water, strawberries and other goodies awaited the participants. Close to the start a local Zumba instructor was pumping the crowd and participants up in a warm-up routine prior to the races.
Photos by Phillipe Carre www.bountyphotographie.com
By 8 am people, other than the race participants, were beginning to fill the streets and wander past the over 400 vendors in attendance. An assortment of carnival rides filled the dirt lot across the street from Mother Earth and kids and parents were beginning to choose which rides to try out. An amazing array of items to purchase, look at, or read about were found at vendors on every street of the downtown area. There were the usual clothing, jewelry, hat/cap vendors, but there were hundreds of unusual items to check-out. As I walked down the streets I took in a booth with Goat Milk soap, Virgin Mojitos, Chiropractic tents and other clinics, many travel companies, a booth selling pet beds with your favorite sports team as the sides and bedding, a Fork Art booth, an interesting jewelry booth called Honeyspooners Silverware, a gentleman selling Marshmellow shooters, many Kettle Korn booths, health food booths, one booth just selling super hero t-shirts, a booth that advertised selling Beignets – the donut of Louisiana, and numerous Vista City Council candidate booths.
A portable ATM was set up on the corner of Main and S. Indiana for anyone running out of money. I ran into city council candidates Joe Green, Tom Fleming and Dale Pilat who will be several of the candidates on the ballot in November. Also out in force was the San Diego Union, the City of Vista (they provided free water and other goodies) and our own TheVistaPress.com covering the event and signing up folks who don’t already receive our free online paper. Lots of the booths, that were displaying other information for those in attendance, also had free candy or chips for anyone who was willing to walk up and listen to those in charge of the booth. Scattered along the way through these hundreds of vendors were several stages for performers. School of Rock kicked off music at the Beer Garden Stage at 9 am and on the Acoustic Stage Sunset Strummers began. Music could be heard on every street.
Along with this numerous contests and other events were held throughout the day. A Strawberry pie eating contest was a popular event as was Strawberry Idol, Vista’s version of American Idol. Not to mention the abundance of strawberry shortcake that could be found throughout the festival. Also popular was the free balloon ride provided by RE/Max Regal on the grass fields. Close by, several artists were beginning work on chalk art in the parking lot along Citrus. There were numerous food trucks located in parking lots and as I walked around I noticed that all of the local downtown eateries were packed – Vista Village Pub, Curbside Café, Lush, Village Café – to name a few seemed to be doing a booming business. At the southern end of S. Indiana a large bouncy slide with a pirate theme seemed to be a popular attraction for younger folks.
This annual Vista event is not as large as the Carlsbad Street Faire, one of the largest single day Fairs in the nation, but to those in attendance, the smaller more intimate nature of the Strawberry Festival is what makes it so popular. It has a large event feel in the confines of downtown historic Vista. There is no doubt that those that attend have a great time and will be some of the same folks that fill the Fairground in Del Mar for the large San Diego County Fair. This is a perfect warm-up for what is to come and a perfect way to kick-off the summer months.
….On Sunday it was difficult to walk down Main Street, Broadway, Citrus, Michigan and both sides of Indiana in Historic Downtown Vista without an occasionally bumping into someone, being bumped into, or having to stop walking to let someone pass in front of you. It was literally wall-to-wall with people. There were lines at many of the vendor booths that offered food. Strollers with their infant passengers and dogs of every breed were found every ten feet or so. The Miss Vista and her princesses and the Miss Pride of Vista and her Princesses were everywhere.
There were wheels to spin for prizes, jewelry for sale, a chimney sweep, and most of Vista’s wonderful non-profits were on hand to help or were found operating their booths. We saw The Women’s Club of Vista, The City of Vista, The Downtown Rotary Club, The Alta Vista Botanical Gardens, the Vista Historical Society, and of course, the Vista Chamber of Commerce who were presenting this event to the community thanks to a host of corporate sponsors.
There was something for everyone at the Strawberry Festival. A 5/10K run, 1 mile kids run, ¼ mile tots trot, carnival rides, pie eating contests, costume contests, a beer garden, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Foam, a hot air balloon, Silhouette Portraits, several kids zones of activities, a putting contest, Stein holding contest, overhead drones, 5 stages with live music, vendors with every imaginable offering and all sorts of food. These included cotton candy, cupcakes, mini-donuts, cookies, sausages, BBQ, to name a few. Of course the Curbside Café, The Village Café, The Vista Village Pub, Urbn Pizza, Lush Coffee, and the Belching Beaver were right in the middle of it all providing their usual great menu offerings.
I walked over to the Festival at 6:30 am from my home off of Civic Center Drive because I knew parking was going to be difficult. A shuttle was being operated from the parking lot of the County Courthouse on Melrose. The Civic Center, the Library and the Vista Magnet Middle School parking lots quickly and early in the day filled with cars carrying the people that came from all over North County. Across the railroad tracks the parking lots of the Cinépolis USA Theatre, The Wave Waterpark, Frazier Farms, Staples, Chili’s Grill and Bar and everything in between were also being filled with Strawberry Festival seekers. Even the street parking by Lowes was used.
The weather was perfect, the vendors were happily filling their registers, the kids were having fun, and the streets were full of cheerful people. One estimate had the attendance number at around 150,000. Whatever the number was, it was the biggest turn out ever for a Vista downtown event.