A pie-eating contest was one of the many activities at the eighth annual Tri-City Medical Center Vista Strawberry Festival on May 27. According to organizers, this year’s festival drew 110,000 visitors, a new record. Photo courtesy of the Vista Chamber of Commerce
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Vista Strawberry Festival draws largest crowd ever

The Tri-City Medical Center Vista Strawberry 2018 Festival returned for its eighth annual event May 27, and it was a huge hit. This year’s festival had its highest rate of attendance ever at 110,000 visitors. The previous year was 100,000.

There was something for everyone, including a 10K and 5K, entertainment, food and more in downtown Vista.

Vista Chamber of Commerce CEO Bret Schanzenbach called the festival a huge success this year.

“We had more runners than ever before, more vendors than ever before and more attendees than ever,” Schanzenbach said. “It is very exciting to experience the growth of the event over the past nine years from a sleepy street fair to a major festival.”

Nearly 450 street vendors took part in the day.

Schanzenbach said they had tremendous feedback for the wide diversity of activities which consisted of the 10K, 5K, five entertainment stages, contests all day long, a craft beer garden with nine Vista microbreweries and a food court and kids’ carnival area. 

“People shared with us that it was like attending a county fair, but with no entry fee,” Schanzenbach said.

For the 10K, the runner in the lead with the fastest time was Joshua Espinoza from Tustin, California.

“Joshua finished our hilly challenging course in 32:30,” Schanzenbach said. “Our fastest 5K runner was Matthew Seat, who completed the race in 15:32.”

The race started and ended at the festival in Vista — every runner who crossed the finish line received a medal and fresh strawberries.

Also new this year was the debut of Vista’s Got Talent competition. The top prize winner who received $500 was the JAM Fusion Band hailing from San Diego. The band consisted of musicians and singers ranging from 9 to 16 years of age.

Throughout the day, Strawberry Festival-goers had the opportunity to see other types of stage entertainment such as local bands and dance groups, like Step Nicely Dance. The owner of Step Nicely Dance, Pamela Jackson of Oceanside, said this was their third year participating in the fun-filled event. Step Nicely Dance is a soul-line-dancing group for people of all ages.

“Approximately 40 dancers of various skill levels came together to both entertain and engage the crowd at the Flag Pavilion Stage,” said Jackson, adding how they are looking forward to doing this again next year.

Schanzenbach said on a personal level the most memorable part of this year’s event was the expansion of the footprint of the event onto South Santa Fe Ave. 

“We were concerned that the vendors in that area might not get as much attention as other parts of the festival,” he said. “But it turned out to be a huge hit, and it was jammed with people all day long.”

Schanzenbach said putting on an event of this magnitude takes some extraordinary people to help.

“I would like to thank my staff first and my board of directors second for their efforts to make this happen,” he said. “We had almost 200 volunteers who helped in one way or another, and we could not put this event on without all of them.”