Located approximately 95 miles south of San Francisco, the city of Watsonville, California, is part of Santa Cruz County. The city is situated in the Pajaro Valley, and is home to roughly 50,000 residents. Watsonville is the second-largest city in Santa Cruz County and is also known as "the Apple City," for the apple orchards that were once abundant throughout the region.
The area's original inhabitants were the Costanoans, a local Indian tribe. By 1850, numerous settlers held claims to land in the region. Named after Judge John Watson, the town of Watsonville incorporated in 1868, and became a municipality under city charter in 1903.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
Strawberries are the predominant agricultural crop in Watsonville and major strawberry producers such as Sweet Darling, Driscoll and West Marine Dole are headquartered in the region. Other important crops include blackberries, raspberries, lettuce and mushrooms.
Although many apple orchards were converted to other uses in the 1950s, Martinelli's - an award-winning producer of apple-based beverages - remains in the Pajaro Valley. Watsonville's cool but temperate climate and its coastal locale are perfect for growing the superb, flavorful apples that are the staple of this 140-year-old company.
Watsonville Community Hospital has 750 employees and is over a century old. The hospital offers a full range of health care services, including a birthing center and neonatal intensive care unit, a cardiac care and cath lab, and an in-patient/out-patient surgical center.
Other major employers in the area include West Marine Products, a food wholesaler; Fox Factory Inc., a high-performance vehicle component manufacturer; and Ameri-Kleen Building Services, a cleaning service.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
The city of Watsonville accommodates an urban population of more than 50,000 and a very negligible rural population. Neighborhoods and districts of Watsonville accommodate around 11,800 houses, out of which more than 11,500 are occupied. Of the occupied houses, about half are owner-occupied and half are renter-occupied. The median home price in Watsonville is much lower than the statewide median price.
The Watsonville Civic Plaza is a massive complex, comprising a new library, the Agricultural Workers History Museum, the Santa Cruz Municipal Courthouse, city government buildings, and private office space.
- Watsonville Nature Center: These wetlands are home to numerous species of threatened or endangered wildlife. Visitors can enjoy miles of paved trails (accessible via various neighborhood entrances) that take visitors along some of Watsonville's vast acreage of wetlands. An interpretive nature center lets visitors learn more about the wildlife, culture, history and preservation efforts of the Pajaro Valley.
- Santa Cruz Fairgrounds: Located in Watsonville, the fairgrounds host not only the annual Santa Cruz County Fair, but also events such as horse shows and motocross races. The site is also home to the Codiga Center and Museum, which details the region's agricultural history through exhibits and farming artifacts. The historic Rodgers House, built in 1870 and now a national landmark, also graces the entrance of the fairgrounds and is available for weddings and special events.
- The Bockius-Orr House and Volck Museum: Built in the 1870s, the Victorian Bockius-Orr house is the site of the Pajaro Valley Historical Association, while the nearby Carriage House contains the William H. Volck Museum, with exhibits dedicated to the history of the Pajaro Valley.
- The Henry J. Miller Center for the Performing Arts: Featuring performances by the Santa Cruz County Symphony, as well as local and regional theater and dance groups.
- The Pajaro Valley Art Gallery: Home of the Pajaro Valley Arts Council, the Art Gallery is located in a 19th-century Victorian home on Sudden Street.
- Watsonville Square/ Overlook Shopping Center: Two major shopping centers sit across the street from each other in western Watsonville, featuring major chain retailers and several restaurants.
- Artichoke Festival: Located in nearby Castroville, this annual festival celebrates the artichoke. Events include a classic car show, a parade, and "Agro Art," a competition where artisans fashion creative masterpieces from fruits and vegetables. The California Wine Exposition is also part of the festival.
- Monterey Bay Strawberry Festival: This annual street festival commemorates the Santa Cruz/Monterey strawberry-growing region, the largest strawberry-growing area in the nation. The festival features such events as a pie-eating contest, gourmet strawberry-themed foods (including strawberry tamales), street vendors and a children's area with rides.
- Santa Cruz County Fair: Featuring carnival rides and games, car and horse shows, musical performances, and local food and craft vendors every September.
- Watsonville Fly-In & Air Show: Held annually at the Watsonville Municipal Airport on Memorial Day weekend, the Watsonville Fly-In features aircraft exhibits, stunt flying, food and entertainment, and draws over 50,000 visitors per year.
- Cabrillo College: Established in 1959, this community college offers certificates and associates degrees. Enrollment averages over 13,000 students annually.
- Monsbey College: A newly formed community college specializing in Technology and Health Care.
- CET Job Training Center: Offers job training in a number of fields, including education, health care, business and culinary arts.
- Watsonville Aptos Adult School: Provides continuing education instruction in technology, health and human resources fields.
- Watsonville is served by the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, a small regional newspaper covering local news and events, with a circulation of around 5,000 copies.
- The Santa Cruz Sentinel is also distributed in Watsonville.
- KCAH Channel 25 is a locally operated public access television channel.