The Legacy

“We strive to offer a first-class event that supports and enhances our community.” – Dr. Tsujio Kato

Honoring. Celebrating. Impacting.

Back in 1983, Dr. Tsujio Kato, City of Oxnard councilman, was asked an intriguing question: Would there be any interest in starting a strawberry festival in Oxnard? Born and raised in the city he loved, Dr. Kato was always trying to promote the area and all its beauty.  What better way than with strawberries!  His uncle was the major grower at that time, so it was a crop that was very dear to him.

He presented the idea to the city council who voted to approve it and to allocate funds, making it a city-sponsored event. Dr. Kato, along with the PR Consultant Terry Pimsleur who had brought the idea to him, city staff members Jim Faulconer and Kathy Burris, planned the Festival, designed a logo, and named it the “California” Strawberry Festival to reflect California’s growing reputation for producing the best strawberries in the country. He recruited board members from all areas of the city, including the Navy SeaBee Base, County Supervisor John Flynn, Chambers of Commerce, agriculture companies, college presidents, and others, for valuable input and expertise.

As chairman, Dr. Kato was joined by founding board members including Special Events Commission member Bill Belcher, farmer Ron Kato, farm industry representative Don DeArmond, SeaBee executive secretary Jeanne Pelkey, Pt. Hueneme Chamber of Commerce President Karin Speights, and Oxnard College President Ed Robings, to name a few.

In 1984, after the unprecedented effort by Dr. Kato and his dedicated volunteers, the new California Strawberry Festival debuted at Channel Islands Harbor.

The goals were simple:

  • Create a celebration in honor of the strawberries that grow prolifically throughout our rich agricultural region.
  • Invite the public to join in the celebration.
  • Generate proceeds to ensure the next year’s Festival and get as much back out into our communities where it could do the most good.

The response was tremendous. In addition to the individual personal commitment, local businesses, growers, and industries contributed to its success. Proceeds benefited thirty nonprofit organizations that first year. Oxnard’s own J.M. Smucker’s Company stepped up as the inaugural Sponsor.

Dr. Tsujio Kato
Festival programs
Festival programs

The Festival was moved from Channel Islands Harbor to Strawberry Meadows at College Park in 1991 to give our ever-increasing number of Guests more room to enjoy all the events, attractions, rides, music, arts & crafts, food and beverages of all sizes, shapes, and flavors.

In 2001 we evolved into a 501(c)(3) public benefit, nonprofit organization with an all-volunteer board of directors. In California, this means we formally became what we were informally for the previous 17 years: an organization of like-minded individuals who formed an organization exclusively for social, educational, recreational or charitable purposes, holding some of our assets for charitable purposes, and registering and reporting on those charitable assets yearly through an outside audit.

And year after year we have endeavored to continually increase our Guests’ fruitful experience.

Now, as we celebrate our 37th Anniversary, we are proud to say that our goals remain the same — only each has grown in scope and impact from the seeds planted back in 1983. We offer our heartfelt thanks for your support because it is you — our Guests, our Nonprofit Partners, our Sponsors, and our Friends — who help us continue the legacy of the California Strawberry Festival: honoring, celebrating, and impacting our communities long into the future.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead