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Strauss Festival Brings A Taste Of Vienna To Elk Grove


Jackson Levin | CapRadio Music Intern

With the end of July approaching, the 27th annual Strauss Festival moves into the midsummer spotlight. Local dancers and musicians will present waltz and polka performances to the community of Elk Grove, all set to the music of the Austrian composer, Johann Strauss.

The Festival takes place on Elk Grove Regional Park’s very own Strauss Island, and attracts approximately 30,000 attendees annually. Initiated in 1987 by Iris Zimbelman, the festival was founded to celebrate the music and performances enjoyed in Vienna’s Stadtpark.

Festival attendees sit on the grassy knolls surrounding Strauss Island, shaded by numerous willow trees. With such a picturesque scene one might feel as though they are watching a performance in the famous Viennese park.

This year’s performance, entitled the "Artist Life," will include members of volunteer waltz and polka troupes, as well as the 32-piece Camellia Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Jay DeWald.

DeWald, a retired band director from Elk Grove High, has been the lead conductor of the Strauss festival since it began in 1987. “I think it’s a dedication thing for me,” DeWald said about his 27-year commitment to the festival. “Recently we’ve taken on the Camellia Symphony…these guys work really hard and there are some really good musicians in the group.”

Kimberlyn Koford, a current student at Sacramento State University, spoke of her past three years participating in the Strauss Festival. As a dancer, she described some of the daring moves the polka troupe members execute.

“The girls are lifted, flipped, swung in the air, death-dropped…and end up in a carried pose still off the ground,” she explained over instant messenger.

Koford also spoke of her enthusiasm for the costumes. “We’re in these gorgeous dresses,” she said. “Lots of glitter, makeup, and floral hair pieces…it kind of makes you feel like a Disney Princess!”

The Strauss Festival is free to the public, with performances at 7:45 p.m. from July 24 to the 27. Open seating is available and audience members are encouraged to bring beach towels, blankets and lawn chairs. (See the festival website for details on reserving a lawn space and chair restrictions.) A firework display tops off a night celebrating the invaluable role the arts plays in uniting a community.  

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