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Oxnard Deputy City Manager Shiri Klima tries a cricket taco. (Photo by Chris Frost)
Thursday, June 6, 2019

By Chris Frost

chris@tricountysentry.com

Oxnard— Plaza Park in downtown Oxnard was the place to be June 1, as the Inaugural Insect Festival in the city attracted kids of all ages ready to check out some bugs, learn a little history, and understand how the creatures exist in the world today.

 

The event also featured bands and lectures about important topics like controlling unwanted pests in your home.

 

Oxnard City Manager Alex Nguyen brought the event to the city and told the Tri County Sentry that he couldn’t be happier about the outcome.

 

“The most important thing is when you walk around where the booths and insects are, and you watch the kids interacting and their faces, this is fantastic,” he said. “This is our way of bringing a science museum to the community.”

 

Science museums are far away and not too affordable, he said, and doing this for the community is wonderful.  

 

Terrel Harrison was running the event and said he thinks it’s cool they will put an insect in your hand at the displays.

 

“There is a particular one with a beetle, and I like watching other people do it, but I won’t do it myself,” he said. “This whole idea came from our new city manager, and he asked me to put the staff together. The staff worked hard, and the public loves it. Especially the kids.” 

 

Councilwoman Gabriela Basua was excited to eat the bugs but wanted to have a glass of water to wash them down.

 

“The kids and the school district have been very supportive of this, and I am excited myself seeing the community here,” she said. “I might bring some mealworms to the city council meeting.”

 

Oxnard School District Science Instructional Specialist Farah Raskin said people are interested in mealworms as a food source.

 

“People mostly think of mealworms as food for their Geckos or lizards, but we’re trying to change that and think of mealworms as a sustainable food source,” she said. “If you have 12 mealworms, it will have the equivalent amount of protein as one hamburger.”

 

The kids say the mealworms taste like pumpkin seeds and tell her they’re delicious.

 

“I have not tried them,” she said. 

 

Angelica Morales said bugs are the food of the future.

 

“Western diets and not going to be sustainable at the rate we are eating meat,” she said. “They take up a lot less space and water.”

 

Mel Atamian ran Silkies and Eddy’s bugs and had a huge crowd waiting to hold silkworms.

 

Atanian said she wanted to help the schools out and they are easy to transport.

 

“My husband got me involved,” she said. “I married into this, and my husband has been collecting for the last 25 years.”

 

She said the worms are all over the house.

 

“You leave them in the box and they stay there,” she said. “They don’t have eyes.”

 

Tyler Startley loves bugs and his mom thought the exhibit would interest him.

 

“It’s fuzzy,” Tyler said. “I’m going to name him Silky.” 

 

Caraline and Sharlett Conley were coloring bugs with Laythim Zrimsik and having a great time.

 

“I’m a wildlife biologist and a high school biology teacher, and I thought it would be cool,” Mom Morgan Elliot said. “He likes to play with bugs. So far, he seems to like the centipedes and millipedes a lot.”

 

Krystalee Conley said Caraline loves insects.

 

“Rollie Pollies, butterflies, dragonflies, snails and slugs,” she said. “We already experienced a cricket protein bar. “

 

Krystlee loves seeing her daughter happy and excited.

 

“The bees, insects, and beetles are all interesting,” she said. 

 

One of the more entertaining events at the festival was the tasting ceremony, where elected officials and chiefs got to sample treats like avocado cricket tacos.

 

Mayor Tim Flynn said he wouldn’t have to eat his steak dinner that night because he was getting plenty of protein from the cricket taco.

 

He had a beef dish sprinkled with worms and a taco filled with crickets and avocado.

 

“When you have this much protein, you don’t need to eat steak,” he said. “This will lower my cholesterol, my blood sugar, and my blood pressure., I’m going to be a super athlete after this.”

 

Deputy City Manager Shiri Klima didn’t have to be part of the tasting event on stage but said she would try the cricket taco.

 

“There was one they all said was delicious,” she said. “I want to try it.”

 

She brought her dog to the event but said no to his sampling the cuisine.

 

“This is people food,” she said. “The taco is salty and spicy.”

 

Assistant City Manager Ashley Golden had a cricket taco.

 

“It’s nice and spicy, and crunchy,” she said. “I think I just pulled a leg out of my mouth.” 

 

Councilman Bert Perello said the taco wasn’t too bad.

 

“The issue with the last taco; the avocado was excellent, but somebody stuck a habanero in there and mother there is something hot in there now,” he said. “It tasted like a crunchy rice crispy. It was salty, but maybe that’s what it is supposed to be.”

 

He called it an experience but said he would not fill his refrigerator with edible bugs.

 

“So far, I am fortunate that I don’t have to do that,” he said. 

 

He noted that City Manager Alex Nguyen didn’t have any bug tacos.

 

“It was his idea,” he joked. “What does he know that we don’t know.”

 

Nguyen pointed out the tasting panel was for elected officials and chiefs.

 

“I am neither an elected nor a chief,” he said. “It seems like they did very well, and on average, they enjoyed it.”

 

Recreation Coordinator Deanna Marquez was outfitted in her insect festival t-shirt and was wearing a set of butterfly wings.

 

“I am fluttering around with my butterfly wings and giving out programs and passports for the kids so they can get their stamps,” she said. “We have a chance to win four Six Flags tickets at the end of the day.”

 

She loves seeing new and fresh faces at Plaza Park learning about things the Oxnard Recreation Department can offer.

 

“There are different educational vendors and all the things for our youth in the community,” she said. 

 

Snacking on bugs is something she is concerned about.

 

“If it’s disguised well enough, I might do it,” she said.