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Next week is huge for sports teams from Santa Maria and neighboring communities.

The Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department is applying for state funding to develop several projects, including the Enos Ranch Park and Cultural Center, and a sports complex.

You can be part of the conversation about how those areas and others are developed by participating in meetings at which city officials seek citizens’ ideas.

Meeting No. 1 concerns the Enos Ranch Park and Cultural Center, and will begin at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Veterans Memorial Community Center, 313 W. Tunnell St. The second meeting is about the Santa Maria Sports Complex, and begins at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the same location.

Hearing what citizens and players have to say about recreation’s future is of vital importance, so if you have ideas about what should and could be, plan to be at one or both of those sessions.

A batch of roses to all who are willing to have a voice in how our community grows into the future.

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Want to know how big the strawberry-growing industry is on the Central Coast? Just look at the size of the crowd at last Wednesday night’s Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Industry Recognition Dinner.

It looked like thousands to us, but it was actually just shy of 700 guests for the event hosted by the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce. That's a lot of folks supporting one of Santa Barbara County’s most powerful economic engines. Roses to all those in attendance.

The Strawberry Industry Recognition Dinner serves as the launch pad for the strawberry harvest season, and is a preamble to the Strawberry Festival, one of our major events.

A typical annual crop report in recent years always has a familiar crop atop the ladder — strawberries, which usually provide about a half-billion dollars in value, in a total crops yield of about $1.6 billion.

That figure is just the tip of a large iceberg, once the economic rippling effect is factored in. Recent wildfires will likely have a significant impact on the 2018 crop report, but don’t expect anything dramatic with regard to North County crops.

How about a strawberry milkshake with a slice of strawberry shortcake for lunch?

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Sticking with strawberries for a moment, roses to our Strawberry Festival organizers for continuing to upgrade what is already a stellar event.

This year’s Festival happens at the Santa Maria Fairpark April 26-28. Discounted admission tickets and unlimited carnival wristbands are already on sale at local stores.

This year’s upgrades include the appropriately-named OMG! spinning, twisting and swinging ride. Other new rides are the Berry-go-Round, Flying Elephants, Lost Mine and Star Tower. Don’t worry, all the old favorites are returning.

Roses all around.

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And finally this fine Saturday, a big bouquet of red beauties to Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley and area law enforcement agencies for their presentations of the “Every 15 Minutes” demonstration at local schools.

It is a simulation of what happens about every 15 minutes somewhere in America — when an underage driver gets behind the wheel, impaired by alcohol or drugs, and ends up getting killed or killing an innocent bystander.

The presentation is staged, but it is incredibly graphic, and while teens may show up with a frivolous, who-cares attitude, once the show begins, the fun is truly over.

A frighteningly high percentage of teens admit to driving under the influence, or being in the car when the driver is impaired. It’s enough to drive parents batty.

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