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Thanks to Lisa Carey Public Relations
and the California Strawberry Festival
, I was able to bring you first hand details about how comfortable and realistic it is to attend the festival as someone in a wheelchair.
Accessibility Rating: B+
To start off, you are given the option to park and use one of their courtesy shuttles
(thanks to Sleep Number
) at one of 5 locations. Thanks to a recommendation from Yelp I chose the closest parking lot (Santa Clara High School
) where there was ample parking on Sunday at 11am (an hour after the festival had opened for the day).
We parked and headed to the shuttle bus where the driver told us she would radio for a handicap bus and it would be a 20 minute wait. What did surprise us was that at the shuttle stop at Santa Clara High School there was no volunteer to answer questions and direct folks. Also, there was no canopy or place for folks to wait, without sweltering under the sun, during those 20 minute waits.
Finally the accessible shuttle
pulled up and it had room for 6 wheelchairs if necessary and 6 additional passengers. Another man and myself were in wheelchairs and our families took up all 3 additional bench seats. Our fabulous driver, Rene, explained that sometimes he has to ask families and friends to ride in the regular shuttle and meet everyone at the shuttle stop outside the festival.
A special shout out to our driver, Rene, who was extremely friendly, helpful and an all around great driver. This was his first time volunteering at the Strawberry Festival but he also drives at the Ventura County Fair where he drives one of the larger non-accessible buses.
Finally we made our way inside the festival where we were happy to see that there were wide walkways (pavement), an abundance of volunteers picking up trash, numerous trash and recycle cans, and several long rows of port-a-potties that each included a couple large facilities for handicap individuals. The port-a-potty alleys also included wash-up facilities.The only downside
would be that you have to use your foot to turn on the water to wash-up and that can be a problem for folks who are in wheelchairs and/or using walkers.
There were quite a few bumps in the road due to wiring, etc. but thankfully there was a single accessible ramp
in the center of each bump for wheelchairs. Unfortunately
, because it was crowded and folks were impatient and/or not looking where they were going, often the ramp was being walked on by folks who did not need the additional assistance making it impossible to use. My dad often enough had to turn my wheelchair around so he could maneuver me over the bump (sans a ramp
). Also at one point, we even saw volunteers had set up a table right on top of the ramp! Whoops, obviously that was a mistake but very frustrating for folks who would benefit from said ramp.
Before we wrap this post up, can’t forget to mention the strawberries! There were several well-marked stations where you could buy organic and regular strawberries from local farmers. Oxnard is certainly known for its strawberries so I doubt anyone who bought a flat was disappointed.
Also there were plenty of different strawberry food and drink options. The consensus among my family was that the strawberry lemonade was too watered down, the strawberry Moscato wine from Herzog Wine Cellars was A++ delicious, and the $5 Make Your Own Strawberry Shortcake was a fun way to end the day.
Next year will be the festival’s 35th event so I cannot even begin to imagine what great things are in store for 2018. Be sure to keep an eye out for information about the festival when it comes around next May and for those who were scared away by the crowds rest assured that the festival committee has done a good job of expanding the boundaries of the festival to allow for more foot traffic.
And for those who are wheelchair-bound and/or need to use walkers and other ambulatory assistance — you can rest assured that they are thinking of us and have tried to make it as comfortable for us as it is for our families and friends. Hopefully though they will consider a better way of marking ramps for accessible use and perhaps also another way to pedal the water at the wash-up stations near the toilets?
All in all though it is a fun day out with the family or gaggle of friends! Many thanks again to Lisa Carey Public Relations and the California Strawberry Festival for the chance to visit the festival and for making it an accessible festival for all.