OXNARD – Carsten Holtfreter is only 10 months old, but he found something he liked when his mother took him to Oxnard on Saturday. “He eats strawberries all the time,” said Carsten’s mother, Barbara Lewis of Lancaster. “He’s having a great time,” she said as she watched her little boy in his stroller finishing off a huge berry at the 24th annual California Strawberry Festival. The festival, which continues today, is expected to draw tens of thousands of people from throughout Southern California. Attendance at the festival last year was 59,000, but that was dampened by rain. Organizers expect more this year. The event’s 50 food booths included strawberry crepes, strawberry pizza, strawberry wine, strawberry beer, strawberry champagne, strawberry margaritas, build-your-own strawberry shortcake and tons of fresh strawberries sold directly by Oxnard farmers. The sprawling festival also includes more than 300 arts and crafts booths, nonstop musical entertainment on two stages, children’s carnival rides like the “Berry Go Round,” and contests like the Berry Blast-off Recipe Challenge, the Strawberry Stomp, and a strawberry-pie-eating competition. Renee Pokorny, 37, of Ventura won the recipe contest – and a four-night cruise – with her strawberry mojito shrimp skewers over strawberry scallion rice. Cameron Sperling, 12, of Canoga Park was immediately enlisted to help around the Kaiser Permanente Strawberry Promenade, which was set up at the festival to emphasize healthy living, including the health benefits of strawberries. Since hula hoops were being used by Kaiser to demonstrate the importance of exercise, Sperling stepped up to show his skill, noting that he had caught on to the hula hoop last year and learned to do magic tricks at the same time. Students with the Oxnard High School band played at the festival to welcome visitors Saturday morning. They were planning to go to their prom and after-parties until about 5:30 a.m. Sunday before returning to play some more at the festival today. “It’s called coffee – caffeine and playing music with one eye open,” said Hovan Salibian, 18, a drum major who was looking forward to the long night ahead and coming back to play again today. Since it started in the 1980s, the Strawberry Festival has raised more than $2.5 million for charity, as well as showcasing the state’s $1 billion-plus strawberry industry. “The strawberry festival is a big event for us,” said Oxnard High School band director Fundi Legohn. “It’s always a good time right before the Memorial Day weekend. Everybody likes strawberries.” [email protected] (805) 583-7602 If you go The California Strawberry Festival continues today from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Strawberry Meadows of College Park, 3250 S. Rose Ave., Oxnard. Admission is $12 for adults, $5 for children ages 5-12, $8 for seniors 63 and over, and $8 for military personnel. Children younger than 4 are free. For more information, including park-and-ride shuttle sites and the entertainment schedule, go to www.strawberry-fest.org. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Festival organizers were encouraging visitors to use the park-and-ride shuttle sites set up at various points off the Ventura Freeway to avoid traffic and parking problems. Jacquie Stewart of Alhambra said she took the Amtrak train from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles to Oxnard. “It was packed. Standing-room only,” she said. “Now that we’re here, the first thing we bought were the strawberry nachos. We’re off to a good start. I’m looking for everything strawberry.” Catherine and Geoff Augello came to the festival from Covina. “He’s a big strawberry-holic, so I surprised him today for his birthday,” Catherine Augello said as the two bit into strawberries, one covered in milk chocolate and the other covered in white chocolate.