Garden Grove's Gargantuan Strawberry Shortcake

Grab a fork -- May's famous dessert is just ahead.

THAT ONE DISTINCTIVE DISH: Many a food festival -- in fact, we'll wager most of them -- boasts a sizable spread of snacks and bites and delicacies to try. Even if the party focuses on a single ingredient or dish or vegetable, count on spying, and tasting, a full spectrum of appetizers and salads and dips and desserts that somehow incorporate the star of the show. Fewer festivals, however, feature not only the full spectrum of varied dishes and noshes but one stand-out creation that has become, over the years, synonymous with the festival itself.

THE GARDEN GROVE STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL... a venerable and juicy gathering that's been around for a half century (plus seven years beyond that), does, however, fall into that category of "fewer festivals," the kind of happening that does have a single stand-out creation. It's strawberry shortcake, a lot of strawberry shortcake, sheets and sheets of the tart-tasting, creamy-frosted, tender-cakey stuff. It's the traditional food that opens the festival, or at least the first evening of the festival, and it is free. Always wanted to take part in this sweet tradition but never could cut out a slice of time? (Strawberry shortcake joke.) Then do so this year, on Friday, May 22, when the big big BIG strawberry shortcake is rolled out before its waiting fans.

THE FRUIT-FAMOUS FESTIVAL... isn't all about the shortcake love, though that is a significant part of it. Look for a parade, tunes, a carnival, and other summer's-almost-here, small-town-downtown-Garden-Grove doings. The fest is four days -- Friday through Monday, May 22 through 25 -- and getting in? It is as free as that Friday night square of shortcake. Rides cost, as do foods beyond your shortcake treat, so pocket the cash you'll save on admission. Who knows what other strawberry-lovely bites await? (Well, the organizers do -- count on carnival-fun cuisine with strawberry cameos).

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