The Strauss Festival is the result of founder Iris Zimbelman's dream to recreate the wonderful Strauss music and dance of Vienna in a contemporary style at a local park, and to ensure that the event be accessible to everyone regardless of socioeconomic status. The first Strauss Festival was presented in July 1987 and about 5,000 people attended the two-day event. Over the years the festival has more than doubled in attendance (peaking near 25,000 during it highest attended years) and is now performed over four days the last full weekend in July. The show currently takes place on "Strauss Island" located in the middle of Elk Grove Park Lake. This outdoor performance facility was built with a generous grant from the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors. Seating is festival-style on blankets and lawn chairs, with folding chairs and bleachers available for those in need of this type of seating.
The production tells a different story each year by creatively combining a lively professional 32-piece orchestra playing music by Johann Strauss ll, with graceful, elaborately costumed dancers ranging in age from 2 to 77. The performance each evening culminates with a fireworks display, presenting a unique performing arts event for whole community. The dancers include troops of various ages and many of the children involved become long-time participants. Dancing workshops are offered free to the public to anyone interested in performing, regardless of age or prior experience. The Strauss festival is fortunate to have approximately 300 dedicated volunteers who expend about 45,000 hours every year to help make the festival a successful and memorable cultural event. It is truly amazing to see this labor of community love come to life annually, particularly in light of the fact that the Board, choreographers, set designers and builders, seamstresses, committee members, and performers freely offer their time and talents to make this happen.
The largest expenditures for the festival include hiring the professional 32-piece Camellia Symphony Orchestra and renting professional sound and lighting equipment and their personnel to operate it. In addition, money is needed for the fabric of the elaborate show costumes and accessories, set construction materials and pieces, sanitation services, security, fireworks, special seating arrangements (including chairs for ADA and bleachers), printing, insurance, and other miscellaneous expenses.
The Strauss Festival raises funds year-round and is deeply involved in our community. With respect to fund-raising, we annually hold a spring tea, a fall dinner dance, and we participate in the Big Day of Giving. We apply for regional grants and reach out to local organizations and businesses for in-kind donations. Our community involvement extends to other non-profits like the Lyons Club, Rotary Club, Elk Grove Historical Society, and Soroptomist of Elk Grove. We partner with organizations such as Capital Public Radio, Elk Grove Inner Wheel, and Ardent, as well as the City of Elk Grove, Consumes Community Service District, and local high schools in order to get as broad of a base of participants and volunteers as possible.
For more than 30 years, the Strauss Festival of Elk Grove has been a staple in the local performing arts community and one of the only opportunities to experience this type of entertainment free of charge. We hope to continue to grow in our ability to entertain, educate, and reach as many people in the greater community as possible.