PONCHATOULA, La. (WGNO) — With the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival comes a royal court of many members. This year, one of those royal members is a Strawberry Festival official who is usually found behind the scenes.

Liuzza Produce is one of the dozens of farms raising an incredible crop this year, and that’s where we met 2023 Grand Marshal Gary Stanga.

A longtime Strawberry Festival organizer, Stanga has been with the event since the 70s, about three years after the first Strawberry Fest in 1972.

“I haven’t been royalty before, but I’ve been on the Strawberry Festival board back in the 70s – I got involved I guess with the festival about three years after its inception,” Stanga tells WGNO. “It’s come a very long way, very proud of it.”

Stagna has a special place in his heart for Ponchatoula, from the Strawberry Festival to community service, to city politics. He served 20 years on the city council before spending 13 years as the Chief Deputy for the Tangipahoa Clerk of Court. Now, he’s in his sixth year of holding that title himself.

The Grand Marshal also considers himself a family man, being married to his wife for 51 years — the same age as the festival. You can watch him leading Saturday’s parade which kicks off at 9:30 a.m.

Catch the Ponchatoula Strawberry Fest, sponsored by WGNO on Friday, April 14 beginning at 12 p.m. The event runs through Sunday.

Strawberry Festival Parade Map

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