MAY 22-25, 2015
Friday 1:00 p.m. to 10 p.m. | Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
And Monday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
THE 57th ANNUAL GARDEN GROVE STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL
TO HONOR 25 VETERANS IN THE MAY 23RD PARADE
GARDEN GROVE, CA (May 6, 2015) – The Garden Grove Strawberry Festival will honor 25 veterans in its May 23rd parade. Fifteen are from the U.S. Marine Corps, six from the U.S. Army, three were in the Army National Guard, and one is from the U.S. Navy. They will be joined by family members – 63 in all — in the parade and the festival will treat them to breakfast, lunch and wristbands for free carnival rides all day.
“The festival board chose Honoring Our Returning Veterans as this year’s theme to recognize the sacrifices these brave men and women are making for our country,” said Festival Board President Steve Sanders.
Sgt. Priscilla Salazar will be attending with her husband Sgt. Frank Ortiz, a retired Army Veteran with combat-related injuries. “I was a Military Police and a Non Commissioned Officer and served 10 years in the Army National Guard with one combat tour in Afghanistan,” says Sgt. Salazar. “I was awarded numerous medals, but the one I keep special in my heart is the Navy- Marine Achievement Medal received while doing an all-female personal security detail of 22 VIPs, both Afghan woman and American Female Officers. “ The couple’s two daughters, ages 9 and 4 will also be enjoying the thrill of riding in a parade.
Along with Sgt. Salazar, two other women, both of whom also served in the Army National Guard, will be sharing the day with their young children: single mother of one, Pvt. Catherine Larson and Pvt. 1st Class Alma Herta who joined the national guard two years ago, will be bringing her two girls, ages 9 and 4 along with her husband, Sgt. Hector Huerta who was in the Army for 9 years and did three tours to Iraq. The fourth female veteran — and the only Navy veteran — to be honored is Operation Specialist First Class Lisa Kukula who was in the U.S. Navy for almost 10 years and was deployed to Afghanistan.
Although Sgt. William Wagner has moved away from Garden Grove, he says he still holds the city dear to his heart. He graduated from Rancho Alamitos High School and served in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Army from 1966 to 1969. He received a Purple Heart for injuries sustained and now maneuvers well with a prosthetic leg. Wagner will be joined by another Army combat Vietnam veteran, SP4 Jorge Barragan. “I will be riding to honor my 58,267 brothers that made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam, says Barragan. “They will be in my mind and heart forever.” Another life-long Garden Grove resident, Army Cpl. Faustino Campa Jr., graduated Garden Grove High School in the class of 1997. He is a decorated vet who served a year tour in Iraq. Sgt. Daniel Salas was in the U.S Army for five years with the 101st airborne division.
Garden Grove’s proximity to Camp Pendleton played a role in bringing fifteen U.S. Marines to the festivities, one of whom is the highest ranking officer to be honored, Battalion Sergeant Major Chuong T. Nguyen. Still in active service, Sgt. Maj. Nguyen’s most recent deployment was for 6 months to Okinawa, Japan. “Our Battalion, the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines – known as the First of the First — served as one of the forward deployed forces for any contingencies which might happen in the Pacific theater,” he says. He also was deployed twice to Afghanistan and once to Iraq and has received the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon, and the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal among others.
Another combat veteran who was honored among others for his valor by Dana Hills High School is Marine Cpl. Ryan Yells. He says while in Afghanistan’s Helmond Province he participated in one of the biggest firefights of his deployment on his 21st birthday. While attending school he now works two jobs, one of which is at the South Orange County Veteran Center. Marine Sgt. Chris Merkle, who deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2010, works at the North County Veteran Center. Both take time to serve the needs of fellow veterans.
U.S. Marine Cpl. Robert Nguyen, will join his sister, Senator Janet Nguyen in the parade. He served in the Operating Endurance Freedom (OEF) campaign during the Iraq conflict in 2003. Marine Cpl. Richard (Dray) DeLacoudray retired in April after 22 years with five overseas deployments as a RadarTech in support of both OEF and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). He was also in the U.S. Army Reserves as an MP. Garden Grove native Marine Staff Sergeant Jonathan Peterson, an honor training graduate, also served in numerous capacities, including in OIF and OEF, and is currently assigned as a Senior LAN Manager for the 1394th Transportation Brigade based in Camp Pendleton.
Camaraderie among Marines is legendary, says Sanders. “So it’s no surprise that they keep close contact.” Such has been the case with Corporals A.J. Santos, Juan Estrada, Sixto Martinez and Sergeant Jake MacArthur who all served together for four years in Afghanistan. Santos, Estrada and Martinez were part of a unit that disassembled campsites that were set up throughout Afghanistan. They were trained to look for landmines and other suspicious objects while transporting these materials to campsites. After their return both Estrada and Martinez were responsible for teaching new Marines everything they learned while deployed. Sgt. McArthur is still on active duty. While in Afghanistan he was assigned to the 1st medical battalion providing aid and security to a medical unit that cared for wounded civilian and soldiers. U.S Marine Corporals Louis Orta and Tyssen Rogers both served two tours to Afghanistan from 2008 to 2012, earned degrees as cardiopulmonary therapists and currently attend Westwood College pursuing business degrees.
Rounding out the parade Marine contingent is Cpl. Francis Fernandez who was with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in Southeast Asia and served two tours in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He’s joined by Sgt. Danny Kim who served a year in Iraq, and Lance Corp. Yovan Vivas who did a tour on Okinawa under Marine Forces Pacific, as well as in detachments to the Philippines and Thailand.
ABOUT THE FESTIVAL
The festival will be held Memorial Day Weekend, Friday, May 22nd through Monday, May 25th, 2015. Friday hours are 1:00 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Monday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is free. Special one-price ride-all-day wristbands will be offered at $30 per wristband on Friday and $35 each on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Tickets for individual rides can also be purchased separately at $1 per ticket.
The four-day event, which is the second largest city festival in the Western United States, will be held at the Village Green between Main Street and Euclid Avenue in downtown Garden Grove. Last year’s attendance was more than 300,000. Highlights include the Friday evening official giant strawberry cake-cutting ceremony at 6:00 p.m. at the Showmobile (Acacia & Main streets) when free cake is served to more than 2,000 people.
On Saturday morning, there will be a City of Garden Grove sister-city 5K Run and a festival VIP celebrity breakfast at the Garden Grove Community Center, with proceeds going to Casa Garcia’s We Give Thanks. This is followed by a celebrity parade which starts at 10 a.m. with floats, bands, equestrians, characters including Knott’s Berry Farms’ Snoopy, film and TV celebrities who will be honored in the parade.
All four festival days will include 35 carnival rides, four contests, over 200 food and shopping booths, games, music and live entertainment in the festival’s 550-seat amphitheater and Showmobile. Contests, held in the amphitheater, include the Berry, Berry Beautiful Baby Contest; Redhead Roundup; Strawberry Idol Karaoke; and Tiny Tots King and Queen.
Sponsorship support this year comes from Southern California Ford Dealers, Garden Grove Tourism Promotion Corporation, Clear Channel Outdoors, McDonalds, Care Ambulance Service, Sam’s Club, Garden Grove Hospital, Brandywine Homes, Garden Grove Secured Storage, Allspace Storage, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn and Suites and La Casa Garcia. Media sponsors include Parenting OC, OC News and its Community Newspapers, OC Weekly, Garden Grove Journal, Korea Times, Nguoi Viet Daily News, El Panamericano, Farandula USA, Miniondas, and radio stations 103.4 MYfm, KOST, JACK FM, KABC, KLOS, KDAY-FM, KWVE, KSWB 100.3fm The Sound LA, KWIZ La Rockola, AIR1 Radio, Radiocentro 93.9, KEARTH 101 and The Wave.
For additional information, call (714) 638-0981 or visit www.strawberryfestival.org.