Once upon a time and again this year, the Strauss Festival romanced the beautiful Strauss Island at the Elk Grove Regional Park. This summer during the last week of July, hundreds of Elk Grovians gathered together to be romanced and swept away by the gorgeous production of “The Pea’utiful Princess” a musical fairy tale of the original Princess and the Pea. This was the 32nd annual festival that lasted for four warm summer nights, July 25 thru July 28. The island was flooded with the sensational sounds of the 40 piece Camelia Symphony, that played to each heart and entertained a very focused audience, for hours throughout the evening.
The Strauss Festival was founded in Elk Grove by Iris and Arnie Zimbelman 32 years ago in 1987. Iris thought of the idea of bringing Strauss to Elk Grove after traveling to Austria and experiencing a similar festival involving waltz performances. In 1987 and in its first year, the Strauss Festival in Elk Grove had a success rate of 2,000 enthusiastic audience members, who faithfully returned in the following years to come. The festival was a huge hit and a major contribution in the Sacramento region from its early beginnings. In 1989, Iris was named the Elk Grove Citizen of the Year and was selected by the Sacramento Area YWCA for the Outstanding Woman of the Year Award in Arts and Humanities. In 1996, Iris and Arnie were honored in Elk Grove with a park dedicated to them, called the Arnie and Iris Zimbelman Park, off Big Horn Boulevard. In 2017, the California Parks and Recreation Society honored Iris for the unforgettable Strauss Festival with the Regional Legacy Award. The Elk Grove Arts Commission in 2018 created the “Iris Award” for Arnie and Iris, and also for future artists to come. In 2016, Iris passed away, leaving behind her husband Arnie and their daughters (photo above). Iris made her mark in Elk Grove, California as she left behind a powerful legacy of art and culture that can never be forgotten, and for all to enjoy.
The Strauss Festival is a family friendly festival which Iris Zimbelman insisted must be kept free of charge to all guests. Diversity is welcomed and encouraged as performers from every race and culture participate and draw in an audience of all ethnic backgrounds. A special seating is reserved for those with disabilities and for those needing accommodations. Guests had the options of festival seats provided or blanket seatings for their own personal chairs and blankets. The Strauss History Booth displayed posters and memorabilia from the past 32 years. Strauss Festival t-shirts, key chains, wine glasses and other souvenirs were available for purchase, for those who wanted to hold on to fond memories of the unforgettable, romantic evenings under the stars.
Elk Grovians from all over Elk Grove traditionally come out to support the Strauss Festival every year. Famous Elk Grove historians in the photo above, have written several books and articles on the historical accounts of Elk Grove and its continual growth. Louis Silveira, a writer and historian, represents the Elk Grove Historical Society and shares stories and mysteries from a long time ago in this town. Marielle Tsukamoto is a writer and historian, who represents the Japanese American Citizens League, and shares her stories to educate the public on the past and how it effects our present. Elizabeth Pinkerton is a writer, educator and historian who has written several books on the history of Elk Grove. She also has a prominent middle school in Elk Grove dedicated and named after her, called the Elizabeth Pinkerton Middle School. These wonderful friends of mine shared generously and fondly, of all the great times they have had at the Strauss Festivals in the past and how this gorgeous tradition has greatly added to the history and ambiance of this beautiful town.
The Strauss Festival happens every summer in Elk Grove. It is a magical and enchanting event for all ages to enjoy and appreciate. Hundreds of loyal supporters attend every year, as the festival invites everyone to come out for free, and to enjoy this beautiful musical production at absolutely no cost.
Johann Strauss (1825-1899) was an Austrian composer from Vienna. He was known as “the Waltz King” of his time and was famous for his Viennese waltzes and operettas. He was a composer of light music, particularly dance music. He composed over 500 waltzes, polkas,quadrilles, and other types of dance music. His music is grandly celebrated and deeply appreciated every year at the Strauss Festival at Strauss Island, inside the Elk Grove Regional Park in beautiful Elk Grove, California.