WATSONVILLE - A strawberry can be served a number of ways - blended into a smoothie, frozen for ice cream, served with cake, chopped for a salad and, of course, straight from the vine.
At the 18th annual Watsonville Strawberry Festival at Monterey Bay, the sweet, red fruit also is a popular topping on pizza and tostadas.
This year's event included loukoumades, a kind of Greek doughnut, served up by Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church with a strawberry or honey glaze.
Santa Cruz County's No. 1 crop, worth about $200 million in 2011, is celebrated with Main Street closed off for food booths, games, a stage with live music and carnival rides for kids.
Proceeds from the event, which continues Sunday, benefit the Watsonville Parks and Community Service Department, as well as the numerous nonprofit organizations selling strawberry-themed foods, including strawberry kettle corn.
The parks department uses the money for scholarships for its fee-based classes and programs.
An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 people are expected to visit the festival, according to Ana Espinoza of the parks department.
"It's a wonderful, family-oriented hometown festival," Espinoza said.
This is the third year Amanda and William McFadden of San Jose, with their two young sons Trevor and Trent, have made the festival part of their weekend agenda.
"We come to check out what can be done with a strawberry and check out the town where so many fruits and vegetables are grown," said William McFadden, about to polish off a strawberry sundae. "We enjoy it. It's not a far trip for us."
Michelle Overmeyer of Corralitos and her friend Jamie Berg had opposite reviews on the strawberry tostada.
Berg said strawberries and jalapenos aren't a great combination, while Overmeyer enjoyed the "sweet and spicy" blend.
"I thought it was good," Overmeyer said. "I'd get it again."
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IF YOU GO
Watsonville Strawberry Festival
WHAT: Annual event featuring live music, strawberry desserts, arts and crafts, beer and wine garden
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Downtown Watsonville