Our All-Volunteer Board of Directors
If you’ve ever wondered who’s behind the California Strawberry Festival, please allow us to introduce ourselves.
Collectively, we are the all-volunteer board of directors. Individually, we are either working professionals in a variety of industries who volunteer with the Festival, or we are retired and are professional volunteers. Some of us have been with the Festival for decades and some of us have just come on board.
But all of us have one thing in common. For each of us, the Festival is near and dear to our hearts—a complete labor of love.
Back row left to right: Michael Thompson, Wendy Holder, Greg Berini, Sue Odgers, Luly Lopez, Bud Harley, Kathy McAden, James Donelson. Front row left to right: Dean Maulhardt, Andrew Salinas, Sharon Giles, Tony Murguia, Daisy Tatum, Kim Gibas, Sumiko Kato, Dean Kato. Not pictured: William Belcher, Randolph Ortiz, Tani Carlton, Linnea Howe, Mark Spellman, and Conrad Alvarez, Sr.
In 1997, I volunteered with the Festival to design and print the site map and the announcement posters for the different venues. During this time, I never had the opportunity to attend it because I work in the strawberry/agriculture business. I decided to apply for a nonprofit food booth to raise support for my daughter’s AYSO soccer team. Then I became a board member with the Festival. I am currently Chairman. I also chair the food & beverage and site committees. I’m a member of the finance, souvenir, sponsorship, and marketing & public relations committees. My employer, Western Precooling Systems, cools and ships produce worldwide. I’ve worked for them since 1987. Currently, I am their Operations Manager. Western Precooling has been a big supporter of the Festival for many years and is very tolerant of the amount of time an employee must volunteer to help the Festival be so successful.
What has always drawn me to this event is the energy from all the organizations working together for the common celebration of the Strawberry, all while raising funds for so many local nonprofit organizations.
I started as a volunteer doing whatever was needed in 1984. All of that experience helped when I went on to college and began producing special events at Chico State in 1990. Since 1995, I’ve been in sales and marketing. I was involved in PowerBar Sponsorship Marketing throughout the 90’s, as well as sponsorships and event management at Woodstock ’99. I gained music festival experience on tour with Ozzfest ’03. Now, I am in the renewable energy industry. I returned to the Festival as a volunteer in 2011 and was voted in as a board member in 2014. Currently, I serve as Vice Chair and I am on the marketing/public relations, site, food and beverage, and entertainment committees.
CSF brings us all together working for a common cause. I am proud to be a part of it. It’s important to constantly improve and evolve our community event each year. When we do that, we improve the CSF experience for everyone: our guests, nonprofit partners, and sponsors.
I became involved with the Festival when it was at Channel Islands Harbor providing security as a police officer. From 2003 to 2007, I was involved as a Police Explorer Advisor, and in 2007, when I became a sergeant, I was invited to join this all-volunteer board. Seeing the magnitude of this community event, watching the thousands of people attend each year, knowing the Festival’s support of nonprofits, and the college scholarships given each year to children of farmworkers, made joining the board an easy decision. Up until 2016, I was chair of parking, security, traffic, and shuttles transporting 50,000 guests each year. Currently, I am on the executive committee and in my first year as Vice Chair. And now, as Chief of Police for Port Hueneme, I’ve made it my priority to model the desire to be involved in our community to my own officers, which is part of their evaluation process.
I truly consider it an honor to be a part of and serve on this working board comprised of working and retired professionals from all walks of life. Knowing the impact this Festival has had on the community has kept me motivated to return to help in every way I can for over eleven years – and counting.
Chief Financial Officer
My family farmed in Ventura County, including strawberries, for over one hundred and twenty-five years. I had long felt it was important to highlight the value agriculture brings to Oxnard and to give back to our community. So, in 1994 when I was invited to become a board member I said yes. Currently, I serve as treasurer and I am a member of the finance, sponsorship, and site committees. I served for eight years as Chairman. I am now retired from Quality Packaging & Supplies, which provided boxes and packaging to the ag communities in California, Mexico, Los Angeles, and the tri-counties.
I’m very proud of the Festival’s impact in helping our nonprofit partners raise much needed funds through their participation, which over the course of thirty-five years has been approximately $4.5 million. I believe the Festival has enjoyed such incredible success because of the many returning as well as always new guests each year, our nonprofit partners, our army of volunteers, the hard-working volunteers of the board of directors, and our sponsors – who see not only the value of advertising, but the real value of being part of our community.
I started out as a volunteer in 2005 working in the information and souvenir booths after being asked by long-time board member Daisy Tatum to volunteer. I think it’s very important to be involved and support the community you live in. I became a member of the Board of Directors in 2007 and currently serve as Secretary. I’m on the Public Relations and Volunteer committees and Co-chair the Promenade Committee. I retired in 2007 after 35 years with the Ventura Port District (Ventura Harbor). I really loved working in the public sector. Now I keep busy by serving on the board of two different nonprofits.
The Festival’s impact over the years has added to the local economy, enhanced tourism, given educational opportunities through our scholarship program, and supported numerous local non-profits while providing great family fun! I would encourage everyone to get involved and be a part of something larger than yourself. To serve, support and remember our rich agricultural heritage.
In 1984, Tsujio Kato asked for my assistance in recruiting and managing Festival volunteers because he’d heard that I had managed the 1984 Olympic rowing and canoeing awards ceremony. I said yes, and I’ve been saying yes ever since. Today, our volunteers consider themselves “California Strawberry Festival Family Members” and I agree! I retired after 41 years in education, that included serving as Oxnard Union High School administrator at Channel Islands High School and Hueneme High School, and principal at Frontier High School, Oxnard, Pacific View and Puente High Schools. In 2011, I was asked to be Chair and because I’ve always been proud to be part of such a quality tradition I once again said yes.
The CSF highlights all that is good in Oxnard and brings together people of diverse backgrounds to volunteer and be together as one. I enjoy seeing students I have had in the past who continue to volunteer, encourage their children to volunteer, and the enduring friendships I’ve made with our nearly two hundred annual ‘CSF Family Members.’
I had volunteered for a few years at the Festival when Don DeAmond, Chair of the Festival, invited me to join the board of directors in 2001. From 2001 to 2008 I was part of the VIP and finance committees. I am the immediate past Chair of the Festival. Currently I am part of the executive committee and on the sponsorship, site, and food and beverage committees. As a long-time community banker, I’ve always felt strongly about positive community involvement.
I love being part of the California Strawberry Festival. We work year-round for an event that takes place in 48 hours. As volunteers, we’re committed to hosting an exceptional celebration that brings family and friends together for a great time. We strive to top the experience year after year!
In 1991, which was the seventh year of the Festival, I was looking for an opportunity to get involved with our community. I decided to volunteer at the California Strawberry Festival. The clincher was I got into the Festival free! I was placed in the Onsite Contest area. By Festivals 31 and 32, I was named Festival Chairperson. Currently I am on the Food & Beverage, Finance and Site committees. I’d say I’ve accomplished my desire to be involved! For over thirty years, I have had my own business – Jewelry by WendyLea, selling artisan jewelry designed and handmade by my husband Bob and me. In addition, I’ve worked for PennyMac Inc., a residential mortgage company, for two and a half years. I’m happy to say PennyMac encourages volunteerism in our community.
I strongly believe in volunteering and through the California Strawberry Festival I have been able to teach my children the importance of volunteering and giving back to our community.
I’ve been a Board Member for 34 years. The first year I was a volunteer. While a member of the Oxnard Special Events Commission, Dr. Kato approached us about the idea of a new festival. It seemed to be the right thing to do. Currently I am a Board Member. Until last year I was the Festival CFO for 21 years. Now I serve on the Food & Beverage Committee, the PR Committee and as Vice-Chair of the Finance Committee. I retired after 22 years with the Boy Scouts of America in February 2001. Prior to that I was in the Navy for 22 years. While working for the Commander in Chief Pacific, I was involved with setting up the Cuban Blockade and the evacuation of Cambodia, and later a morning briefer to Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson.
Being part of this enduring nonprofit community event that annually supports local organizations’ ability to raise over $150,000 dollars a year, and our ongoing recognition of the local strawberry industry, is why I continue to volunteer.
Conrad Raul Alvarez, Sr.—Camarillo
I joined the board three years ago. The Festival allows me to give back to our community in a positive and inspiring way. I had been going to the Festival with my wife since we were both in college because her dad has been on the Board since the Inaugural Festival. I am the Entertainment Committee Chair and a member of the Site Committee. I teach 8th Grade Science at Blackstock Junior High School in the Port Hueneme School District. While teaching is my passion, volunteering on the Board allows me to be the example I strive to set for my students. Do not say you will be involved in the community, but actually BE involved in the community.
What I appreciate the most about the Festival every year is the idea of togetherness. The Festival is not visited by groups of single people. Everyone is with friends, family, church groups, service clubs, nonprofits, or some link with a greater group of people. In today’s world, the idea of people from all different cultures, genders, religions, and communities enjoying the day together…in Oxnard…I love it!
I was on the Rio Mesa track team in 2001 and our booster club asked for volunteers to work at their Strawberry Pizza Booth to help raise funds for our programs and activities. I continued volunteering throughout my high school and college years and joined the CSF Board of Directors last year. I am on three committees: Promenade, Food & Beverage and Site. I have deep roots in the community due to our family business, Otani’s Seafood, that has been serving Oxnard since 1952. Otani’s mission is simple: serve delicious, affordable seafood that guests will want to return to week after week. Otani’s Seafood loves our community and tries to get involved wherever it can.
I’ve continued to be part of the California Strawberry Festival because of Its community impact over the last thirty-five years. I look forward to carrying on its legacy far into the future.
Conrad Alvarez recruited me to be a member of the CSF board of directors in 2012, which I accepted. I believe if we all do a little in our community we can have a huge impact. I am a member of the food and beverage committee at present. I worked for Coca-Cola for seventeen years and for the last five I’ve been with Nestle. Nestle encourages all forms of volunteer activities. In fact, they have an app so we can enter our volunteer hours with a chance to win prizes.
I agree with Dr. Martin Luther King when he said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”
I’ve been with the Oxnard Police Department for 24 years and I’ve worked the Festival since I was a young patrol officer providing security to the attendees. I became a board member four years ago to serve my community further. It was my prior OPD Commander who handled the Festival’s shuttle service who asked me to volunteer for a board position. Now I coordinate the shuttle services. At the OPD, I am Commander of Investigative Services Bureau. The OPD supports and encourages any involvement with the Festival.
My family and I have always attended the Festival. We’ve enjoyed the food and seeing all the arts and crafts. Since I became a board member, I miss attending it with my daughter, Tiffany. But now she carries on the family tradition of attending this wonderful event with her own children and looks forward to it each year!
Sumiko Kato Grant—Camarillo
Shortly after my husband, Tsujio, passed away in 1995 I joined the board. Before then, I was the helper/spouse who attended activities and enjoyed the role, without any duties or responsibilities. But I quickly missed being a part of the Festival. That’s why I became an active participant. Through the years I’ve been on the Poster and Dr. Kato Scholarship committees. I have been both chair and co-chair of the Souvenir Booth since 1995. Four years ago, I retired after a long and very rewarding career as a dental hygienist at our family practice. My retirement activities revolve around my husband, Arnold Grant, who I married three years ago, our love of travel, staying healthy, having the best time of our lives, my dear children and my grandchildren. I’m very excited my son Dean decided to follow in his father’s footsteps by joining the CSF board three years ago.
When Tsujio started the festival in 1984, no one knew how good it would be or how long it would last. Incredibly, 35 years later, we’re still going strong! The credit goes to the wonderful, talented and dedicated group of men and women who have been members of this all-volunteer board, and all the previous chairpersons who gave so much time and expertise to guide it along its journey.
This is my first year on the Board. Daisy Tatum asked me to get involved. I know Daisy from my 22 years at Channel Islands High School as their Home Economics teacher. She was our Vice Principal. I’m on the Food and Beverage Committee and I work with Bill Belcher in the Strawberry Shortcake Tent. I retired five years ago after working with the Oxnard Union High School District as Pacifica High School Culinary Arts Academy Director for twelve years. Two years ago, Pacifica rehired me to help train their new culinary teacher. While volunteering with Chef Ofeldt in the Strawberry Shortcake Tent, Daisy asked me if I would like to continue volunteering with the Festival. So, I said yes. Because it’s hard to say no to Daisy!
It’s good to give back to your community. That’s why I decided to say “Yes” and became involved.
A friend of mine conscripted me to volunteer as a Festival beer server in 2006. I bartended and judged the Berry Blast Off Recipe Contest until 2009. I became involved because I believe in community engagement. In 2010 I became a board member. I’m currently on the Sponsorship, PR, and VIP Pavilion committees. Previously, I was Site Development Chairperson for eight years with responsibility for overseeing the development, decommissioning and restoring Strawberry Meadows at College Park. I’ve been retired for twelve years. I’ve worked as a fish cannery worker, a Facilities Manager and Employment Training Programs Manager, which included responsibility for program management and grant writing.
I believe in the importance of volunteerism. It not only makes you feel good, it’s self-fulfilling. It has a positive impact on our community and brings guests to our city. Our nonprofit partners have an opportunity to make money to further their causes and our guests have a great time. It’s all part of the CSF’s 35-year legacy and I’m proud to be a member of this all-volunteer board of directors.
I joined board in 1987 at the suggestion of a friend who worked with the Festival. He knew of my desire to make the public aware of agriculture in the Oxnard area, especially the strawberry industry. Currently, I’m a member of the finance, entertainment and sponsorship committees and I co-chair the VIP committee, Previously, I was secretary of the Board and coordinated the Children’s Art Contest. I’m a retired Administrative Assistant with Oxnard School District where I worked for 25 years. Other activities include being President of the Oxnard School District Education Foundation and church activities. I was also director of a 10K Race for Breath for American Lung Association in memory of my son. I was a Public Member of the California Strawberry Commission for six years and I’m still involved as a member of their scholarship committee. I’ve always believed in volunteerism and I’m grateful to see the number of volunteers who give their time each year.
I have loved watching the Festival grow from a hometown event celebrating the “berry” to one of California’s premier events. With this expansion, the ability of the Festival to give back to the non-profits in the community has grown. It’s allowed community people to become involved through volunteering, sponsoring, and attending. It’s given many of our youth an opportunity to serve. And, it’s been a positive statement about Oxnard.
Randolph J. Ortiz—Camarillo
Dean Kato and I have been friends and associates for over forty years, so when Dean asked me if I’d be interested in helping our community by volunteering on the CSF board I said I’d love to. As an Oxnard resident since 1968, I truly wanted to be part of the positive impact our community has enjoyed through the California Strawberry Festival. I also wanted to ensure that all who we encounter are aware of what the Oxnard Plains has to offer. I came onboard in 2017 so I’m very new. I’m on the volunteer committee with Daisy Tatum. I have been in education for seventeen years and currently I am Assistant Principal of Channel Island High School; Aligned to Curriculum. Channel Islands High School has always encouraged community engagement.
My reasons for becoming involved in this wonderful event are to promote tourism, inspire community collaboration and to support local talent. I look forward to being involved for years to come!
Mark Spellman—Thousand Oaks
This is my first year having joined at the end of 2017. Bill Belcher and I are Rotarians. He and his wife Dale are two of the most respected people I know. Bill mentioned the CSF was looking for new Board Members. I got involved because I care about our community and felt this was an opportunity to work with a great group of community-oriented individuals for the betterment of our City. I’m on four committees: Entertainment, Volunteer, Promenade, and Public Relations, and have assisted on the VIP Committee. I’m in awe of each Committee Chair. Each member is truly special and together our board is very strong. Everyone has a sense of commitment and we all seem to work well with each other. I’ve worked for the Lazer Broadcasting Corporation, who encourages active community involvement, for the past six years connecting with local businesses and civic leaders to create a better community for all through strategic philanthropy and marketing.
“I became involved with the CSF because I have attended this event since the early years and have enjoyed knowing and working with many members of the Board for years. Hearing there was an opening, volunteering was a no brainer… who wouldn’t want to be a part of this GREAT Festival!”
Former All-Volunteer Board of Directors
Billy Belcher | Chair 2009
Don DeArmond | Co-Chair 1995, Chair 1996-2005
Supervisor John Flynn
Dr. Tsujio Kato | Chair 1983-1995
Dr. Tsujio Kato
Sgt. Ron Whitney
1984 Inaugural Festival Officials
Oxnard City Council
Nao Takasugi, Mayor
Dorothy Maron, Mayor Pro Tem
Dr. Tsujio Kato, Councilman
Dr. Manuel Lopez, Councilman
Dr. Tsujio Kato, Chairman
Dr. Robert L. Carter
Steven M. Greenwood