Garden Grove is a city located in northern Orange County, California. State Route 22, also known as the Garden Grove Freeway, passes through the city in an east-west direction. Garden Grove was founded by Alonzo Cook in 1874. A school district and Methodist church were organized that year. It remained a small rural crossroads until the arrival of the railroad in 1905. The rail connection helped the town prosper with crops of orange, walnuts, chili peppers and later strawberries. In 1933, much of the town’s central business district was destroyed by the Long Beach earthquake, and one person was killed at the high school. The post-World War II boom led to rapid development, and Garden Grove was incorporated as a city in 1956 with about 44,000 residents.
An annual event held over Memorial Day weekend, the Garden Grove Strawberry Festival is one of the largest community festivals in the western United States, attracting an estimated 250,000 visitors. It began in 1958 and celebrates the city’s agricultural past, which includes cultivating crops such as chili peppers, oranges, walnuts and strawberries. Part of the festivities include the cutting of the world’s largest strawberry shortcake, carnival rides and vendors and a celebrity-filled parade. Numerous Garden Grove organizations, including the Miss Garden Grove Scholarship Program, are part of the Memorial Day weekend festivities every year. In commemoration of Garden Grove’s 50th anniversary, the city painted some of its fire hydrants with a design that featured a strawberry, recognizing the festival as a big part of Garden Grove’s history.
Garden Grove is home to two stage theaters, the Garden Grove Playhouse, the Gem Theater and the Festival Amphitheater. The Festival Amphitheater hosts Shakespeare Orange County, which presents an annual Shakespeare Festival each summer. Both venues are owned by the City of Garden Grove, but operated by outside entities. The Garden Grove Playhouse is operated by a non-profit group of the same name. The Gem Theater is currently operated by Damien Lorton and Nicole Cassesso of ‘One More Productions’. The Festival Amphitheater is managed by Thomas Bradac, the producing artistic director of Shakespeare Orange County.