Citrus Festival gains momentum over weekend for record Sunday crowd
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: July 24, 2013
You couldn’t tell by the bright lights of the oversized Ferris Wheel visible from Highway 126 that it was off to a slow start Friday; but the Kiwanis Club Citrus Festival gained momentum over the weekend, ending the 46th annual event with a record crowd for Sunday’s series of concerts at Harding Park.
“Friday was very light,” said festival organizer Bill Grant, “but Saturday and Sunday really picked up.”
“Plenty of people are dancing,” said Kiwanis President Dan Robles Friday evening of those who flocked to the newly reconfigured concert area on Harvard Boulevard. This year Kiwanians decided to keep tables and chairs in the park area and concert seating right in front of the stage, a setup enjoyed by those who attended the festival.
“It’s a little slow,” said Kiwanian Jerry Burns Friday, “but it’s a good mix of music.”
“We’re really having fun,” said Jeri Mueller of Port Hueneme, who with friends from Santa Paula and Port Hueneme attended the festival “strictly for the entertainment, the bands... we’ll be dancing all night. We really like Juano & His Friends,” who were followed Friday by BB Wolf and later LRS/Xposure.
All the weekend’s entertainment were introduced by DJ Rene Sanchez, including Saturday’s lineup that included House Arrest, Balance - 40 years of Funk and Midnite Cruzzers. Sunday was Latin music day, with nine great bands ranging from Francisco Javier con Mariachi de Santa Paula and Banda Azul de Santa Paula to Lizette Rubio of New York, Adán Garza con la Banda la Bajadora and Ángel Soria con la Banda la Bajadora.
The concerts were held by the Bud Light Beer Lounge and people were sitting under the trees enjoying the series of musical headliners including Kiwanians Pam and Roger Strange, who Friday were taking a break from working the event. “I like that when you first enter the festival there are the food courts” that Pam said made it convenient to get something to eat and sit right down to enjoy the show. “And the open side of the Bingo tent benefiting The Arc faces the carnival so it’s fun to play and watch!”
Setup work - including for concert and park seating - was provided by Alex Flores and the Future Farmers of America, who each year help before, during and after the festival. “We do the set up, the clean up, take tickets, anything and anywhere they need us,” said Flores.
Staging the festival is a major job for the small Kiwanis Club: “It gets a little tense during setup,” said club member Cathy Hicks. “But,” said her husband Tim Hicks, “it’s all okay by the time the people come.” And the people came, with Saturday’s crowd more than doubling Friday, and Sunday’s attendance dwarfing Saturday’s attendance.
There were food booths offering everything from gourmet sausages, tri-tip sandwiches and tacos to Kettle Korn, corn dogs, cotton candy, ice cream and bacon-wrapped hot dogs. Kiwanis member Frida Friend was enjoying some “delicious” Mexican fare while working the festival information booth as someone stopped by to show off the hat and earrings they purchased at merchant booths.
It was a perfect blend of fun activities, and Grant said he was especially pleased at the weekend’s line up of musical entertainment - the result of a Kiwanis Club effort to hire as many local but well-known groups as possible. “The bands were absolutely fantastic; everybody asked about them and were so impressed,” Grant said, they kept requesting business cards to hire the musicians for future special events.
“Although it was on the slow side Friday, Saturday was great and then Sunday - my goodness! - the place was packed, people kept coming in and coming in and coming in.... It was,” said Grant, “non stop!”
The Guadagno & Sons Carnival, the club’s festival partner for decades, “did just as well as they usually do, had plenty of thrill rides for adults and the special section for the little kids, and of course the games... we all did pretty well. Overall,” said Grant, “it turned out very, very good.”
He remembered festivals of past days, noting food always has been an important component in the celebration: “They used to serve homemade bread, butter and honey, pour milk, and would be sold out... you couldn’t do that now. But people still love to come to the festival and eat!”
Robles said he remembered the festivals at Veterans Memorial Park, “and they just kept getting bigger.... This is my 29th festival” Robles has been involved with.
Janet Grant said the Kiwanis Club Citrus Festival is a community tradition “that celebrates what is important to Santa Paula’s history... citrus.” Grant said Kiwanis was so pleased with the musical aspects of the festival they are considering having another fundraiser in a few months.
“We discussed having a mini-concert soon, just have the band and the beer and some food trucks... and then collect that money for the big lineup of bands at next year’s Citrus Festival!” All proceeds from the annual Kiwanis Club event are donated back to the community, with an emphasis on youth programs and activities.