To longtime Arroyo Grande resident Heather Jensen, the annual Arroyo Grande Valley Harvest Festival is a welcome change from festivals that sometimes have more of a “commercial air.”
The festival, which will be held in the downtown Village on Friday and Saturday, offers a small-town feel with activities and displays celebrating the city’s agricultural roots. Friends reconnect at the Friday night fish fry, and many of the vendors are nonprofit organizations.
“This one is more down home,” Jensen explained.
Jensen should know — she and her husband, Wayne, have been longtime leaders of the festival, and volunteered to organize it in the early 2000s after participation declined and no one else stepped up to run it, according to a news release from the Arroyo Grande Valley Harvest Festival Association.
The couple has had help from local residents Chet and Judy Cash, who have lived in Arroyo Grande since 1982.
The two couples are being honored this year as the 77th annual Harvest Festival’s grand marshals. They will be announced as grand marshals Friday evening and participate in the parade Saturday morning.
“It was very heartwarming to know we’d been remembered for our efforts over the years,” Jensen said Monday.
Over the years, she has served several times as Harvest Festival secretary, publicity chair and vice chair; Wayne Jensen served three years as festival chair and seven years as parade chair. They have lived in town more than 40 years.
Wayne Jensen has been active in the Arroyo Grande Valley Kiwanis Club for more than 30 years, including three years as president. He retired after 35 years from the University of California Cooperative Extension Service; Heather Jensen worked 23 years as chief executive officer for the Arroyo Grande Valley Chamber of Commerce (now the Arroyo Grande & Grover Beach Chamber of Commerce).
Chet Cash retired after 33 years from the U.S. Forest Service and also worked for Orchard Supply Hardware for 14 years. Judy Cash worked for the Pismo Beach Chamber of Commerce and later with Heather Jensen at the Arroyo Grande chamber.
Chet Cash has also been a member of the Kiwanis Club for more than 30 years and served as its president in 1987. The couple said they were honored to be named grand marshals and have friends from Glendora who have traveled to the festival for many years.
“The feeling at the Friday night fish fry is always energized by seeing friends you haven’t seen since last year,” the Cashes said in a news release. “Keeping the booths and entertainment only local people and nonprofit groups makes it special for the community and is what draws people back year after year.”
For more information about this year’s Harvest Festival, go to www.agharvestfestival.com.