Arts & Culture

The Strawberry Festival is here!

At this year’s Arroyo Grande Strawberry Festival you’ll find belly dancers, a stunt dog and lots and lots of bands.

And, yes, plenty of strawberries.

The two-day event, also featuring rides, a bungee jump and obstacle courses, marks the beginning of the summer festival season and typically attracts between 100,000 and 200,000 people over the Memorial Day weekend.

While you’re debating whether to stuff your face at one of the many food booths or participate in the 5K or 10K runs, here’s a quick rundown on some of the entertainment planned:

Crystal McKee (11 a.m. 1, 3 and 4 p.m., Saturday, Old City Hall Lawn). This Southern California singer-songwriter was exposed to music early, accompanying her mother as an infant to rehearsals for the Riverside Concert Band, where McKee’s mother played clarinet. Within a week of picking up guitar, at age 16, McKee was writing her own songs. In addition to her own music, she plays songs by Sarah McLachlan, Lisa Loeb and Jewel.

The Shival Experience (all day Saturday and Sunday, Lemos Centennial Park Gazebo) This Los Osos-based band, regulars at the Strawberry Festival, perform original tunes inspired by acts such as Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley. Front man Al “Shival” Redwine has played with Santana.

Huallipacha (all day Saturday and Sunday, Ira’s Corner Stage). After leaving Peru amid political upheaval, this group of brothers, who grew up in the Andes, performs the music of their Inca ancestors plus more contemporary tunes from their homeland. Their band name translates to “Sing to the Earth.”

Brad Wilson Band (2 p.m. Sunday, Central Coast Showcase Stage). Blues rocker Brad Wilson has had songs in two John Carpenter movies — “Vampires” and “Ghosts of Mars” — and his songs were regularly placed on the daytime NBC soap opera “Passions.” The Visalia resident has opened for Derek Trucks, Cheap Trick and .38 Special.

The Crisptones (2:30 p.m. Saturday, Central Coast Showcase Stage) Fronted by brothers Mark and Robin Crisp, the rock-country Crisptones were named the Adult Contemporary Band of 2007 at the Los Angeles Music Awards. Signed to a song-writing contract by Sharp Objects in Nashville, their influences include Dwight Yoakam, Tom Petty and the Beatles.

Troupe Benat Serat (10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday) Patti Harsch has been teaching belly dancing for 36 years and has been dancing for close to 50. Her dance group, regulars at local parades and festivals, will feature interpretive dancing and clothing with lots of beads, belts and scarves.

Martial arts demonstration, The Pit. (10 a.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday, Branch Street Teen Plaza) John Hackleman, The Pit’s owner and a onetime pro boxer, has trained several ultimate fighting pros and is credited with helping Chuck Liddell become a UFC champ.

Sosa Sisters (11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, Branch Street Teen Plaza). After their mother was unable to raise them, the six Sosa sisters wound up in separate foster homes. But two of the siblings wound up in the home of Luis and Maria Sosa, who decided to adopt them and their sisters. Noticing their new father had a garage full of musical instruments, the siblings quickly learned to play music and hit the road.

The Dentures (4 p.m. Saturday, Village Center Stage) This local surf band, which has opened for surf pioneer Dick Dale and performed with “Mr. Moto” writer Paul Johnson, includes Ron Saul, who makes ukuleles, and Steve Conrad, who has made music for commercials and film.

Bubba Ramey (all day Saturday and Sunday, Fireman’s Park Stage). After a stint in the Army, this jazz, funk and blues sax player performed with several bands before becoming a solo act. His first gig was for tips at a Chinese restaurant on the Chinese New Year, 1986.

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