Straw Dog

Maybe the thought of sharing strawberry shortcake with 250,000 other people is your idea of fun. Maybe macramé plant holders entice you. Maybe you're planning on attending the Garden Grove Strawberry Festival because you like that the festival raises mucho dinerofor needy organizations like the Boys and Girls Club. Good for you. Then again, maybe you want to just mail the Boys and Girls Club a check and avoid the festival altogether. Here are seven reasons why you should:

7. Carnies You entrust your safety to these tattooed and toothless halfway-house rejects on fair rides like the Zipper and the Tilt-A-Whirl. As 60-mph winds swing your little bucket seat back and forth on the ferris wheel, you glance below you to find them face-down in a bucket of extra-cheesy nachos.

6. Bored Teenagers These nocturnal creatures roam the park after all the moms, pops and tots have gone home. This is the same bunch that usually hangs out at failing malls and arcades. Still, they're just kids—what harm could they do? Next thing you know, you're surrounded by testosterone-charged boys posturing for the affections of young ladies, besting one another with contests of who can remain on the Zipper the longest without barfing. The tribal mating ritual has begun, and you're caught in the middle.

5. Grand Marshals I'm not saying that the festival is a harbinger of death or disaster . . . wait, yes, I am because past Strawberry Festival Grand Marshals have not fared well. Entertainer Ben Vereen was almost killed when hit by a car. Acclaimed midget Billy Barty is just plain dead. Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated days after his stint as marshal. So far, last year's presider, former sports anchor Ed Arnold, remains unscathed, unless you count the fact that he remains entombed on KOCE. Pauly Shore? Nothing tragic has happened to him besides being Pauly Shore.

4. Redheads There's a beauty contest at every Strawberry Fest to choose the cutest, prettiest, most adorable Strawberry Blonde. Get it? I'll give you Rita Hayworth and Nicole Kidman, but in general, redheads are not the most attractive people. The problem is that they only have two skin tones: ruddy or blue. From a distance, they appear to have healthy glows. Then you notice the freckles. Most redheads have freckles. And freckles just don't go with blue skin.

3. Tiny Tot Beauty Contest For challengers three to six years old. Does the name Jon-Benet Ramsey ring a bell?

2. Strawberries You can buy shakes, shortcakes and pies. Anything and everything made of strawberries . . . except plain, ordinary strawberries! What the hell kind of strawberry festival is it where you can't buy a simple basket of berries?

1. Port-a-Potties And strawberries?

If you really need a fix for fresh berries, stop at a roadside stand like Tanaka Farms in Cypress. Rows of juicy red fruit hang from leafy green vines behind the stand. Oh, wait . . . the farm was sold a couple of years ago and replaced by the office buildings of the SHURflo Pump Manufacturing Co. But you can still find the stand in front of the Los Alamitos Race Course, though it's hidden behind a chain-link fence. Or just go to the nearest Ralphs and buy cheaper berries, the manufactured kind that stay fresh and juicy red for days and days.

Garden Grove Strawberry Festival at Village Green Park, on Euclid Avenue between Garden Grove Boulevard and Lampson Avenue, Garden Grove, (714) 638-0981. Fri., 1-10 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Mon., 8:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Free.

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