Quick, name the three biggest events in the Santa Maria Valley every year.

The first one is easy and coming up — the annual Elks Rodeo, parade and collateral fun. The county fair is always a huge attraction.

But perhaps the most important event each year is the Strawberry Festival, in part because of the role strawberries play in all of our lives — as in how local agriculture tops the county’s economy, year in and year out.

The 32nd Annual Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival is in full swing, and those who organize and pull off this great event deserve all the roses we can spare.

The festival opened yesterday at the Santa Maria Fairpark, and will run through Sunday. The event features all kinds of new activities plus some of the favorite acts of previous years. Organizers expect about 70,000 visitors during the course of the three-day festival, which is open from noon to 10 p.m. each day.

For the uninitiated, the festival highlights the many ways King Strawberry can be prepared — and it’s always delicious.


You have likely heard about STEM programs in local schools. STEM explained means science, technology, engineering and math.

But have you caught the STEAM tide? Several dozen young women from local Girl Scout troops got a STEAM lesson last Wednesday. Steam explained means science, technology, engineering art and math.

Isabella Blanco, a Santa Maria High School student and long-time member of the Girl Scouts, launched the program in 2016. It involves an annual spring camp designed to get more girls interested in science and technology at a young age.

To us, the inclusion of art in this package is critically important, because art and science have an indisputable connection. The STEAM event is designed to stimulate young minds, and focuses on young women, because while more women than men earn undergraduate degrees in college, men tend to dominate in STEM degrees, and hold more jobs in full-time science occupations.

Bravo and roses to this empowering program!


On the subject of empowerment, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians is hosting the Chumash Earth Day celebration today at Kitiyepumu’ Park on the tribe’s Santa Ynez Valley reservation at 100 Via Juana Lane.

The zero-waste event goes from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and features something for everyone — tree plantings, arts and crafts, special appearances by Woodsy Owl and Smokey Bear, live music, raffle prizes and a food truck.

The event is open to the public and free of charge — a great way for the tribe to help people better understand our environment.

Roses and more roses.


Finally, no strawberries dipped in Grand Marnier-laced chocolate for state lawmakers who, in their haste to deal with what is an affordable-housing crisis statewide, seem to be rushing dubious policy decisions that may actually harm local efforts to development more affordable units. Instead, big raspberries.

The problem is exemplified by lawmakers’ belief that there should be different rules for cities of different sizes. That may very well be true, but it should be left up to local elected officials to decide how best to provide affordable housing.

The problem is critical. California has 3.5 million fewer homes than it needs, and prices are out of reach for rents and potential homeowners in many areas. Lawmakers from both parties, developers and tenants are calling for changes, but there's little or no agreement on what will work. Many local governments oppose such legislation because they see it as a power grab by the state, usurping their authority to design neighborhoods.

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