The earliest history of Watsonville dates all the way back to 1769. It was that year, on October 10 to be exact, that Fray Crespi and Miguel Constanso, who was a member of Portola’s expedition reported that they had seen a large, grass-stuffed bird, and named the city “Pajaro.” By 1847, the area was heavily populated by members of the Costanoan Tribe. In addition to their farming, cattle ranches were also very popular during this era of Watsonville’s history.
A land dispute is actually at the heart of the name that the community carries today. In 1851, Judge John H. Watson arrived in Pajaro and claimed to own some of the land that was then occupied by Sebastian Rodriguez. Judge Watson laid out a massive township plan for the area. A country under-sheriff (the name given to deputies in the 1800s) began referring to the area as Watsonville. Even though Judge Watson lost his claim against Rodriguez and his family, the Judge would stay in the area, and the name stuck. Watson eventually left the area in 1862, moving to Nevada never to return to the city that bore his name.
The city of Watsonville incorporated in 1868, as the economic status of the community began to thrive. The boom in the economy was largely assisted by the railroad that came through, providing a connection between Watsonville and the Santa Clara Valley.
Today, agriculture is still a major component of life in Watsonville. In fact, the city serves as a major hub for food processing and some nationally branded produce companies. The primary crops in Watsonville vary wildly, and include apples, strawberries, raspberries, lettuce, brussels sprouts, artichokes, blackberries, mushrooms, cut flowers, and much more. In addition to the farms and orchards that continue to be very present in Watsonville, the Eastern Highlands are still a popular spot for cattle ranching, timbering, and other vineyards and orchards.
There is no shortage of things to do in Watsonville. While many of those attractions include wineries, orchards, and other agriculturally based concepts, there are also several state parks in the area. These parks, which include Mount Madonna County Park provide a sprawling network of hiking, biking, and jogging trails that vary in difficulty, meaning that there’s something for everyone, regardless of their experience level.
There are also cultural attractions available in Watsonville. The Henry J. Mello Performing Arts Center constantly hosts various musical acts, dramatic productions, and other events.
Ocean Speedway (formerly referred to as Watsonville Speedway) is a dirt track that features auto racing throughout the year. Every weekend starting in March and running through the end of September, auto racing fans can go to the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds to enjoy some competitive dirt racing with some great local auto racers.
Every year, Watsonville hosts the Watsonville Strawberry Festival. The Strawberry Festival not only includes multiple food vendors, local artists, local artisans, and more, but there are also live entertainment stages set up around the area, featuring local musicians and several well-known names in music. In addition to the food, art, and music, festivalgoers can also take part in fun activities such as the Strawberry Festival pie eating contest.
In addition to the Strawberry Festival, the Santa Cruz County Fair is also held in Watsonville. Each year, the Santa Cruz County Fair, which is generally held in the middle of September, hosts visitors who are looking to enjoy a variety of activities. While there are several of the traditional fair activities such as food booths, local artists, crafts, and more, there is also a monster truck show, livestock show, and much more. Additionally, children are enthralled by the presence of some of their favorite movie characters who generally make multiple appearances throughout the day.
Finally, Watsonville hosts the annual Watsonville Fly-In and Air Show. This event is always a hit, especially among aviation enthusiasts. Displays include antique airplanes, military planes, military helicopters, and much more. The airshow is obviously the highlight of the event.
As of the most recent US Census, Watsonville’s population was just short of 54,000, meaning that while there are plenty of “smalltown” activities to enjoy, the community is still a thriving community. In addition to the jobs in agriculture, ranching, and timbering, Watsonville is also home to numerous professionals who work in the tech industry. This diversity in employment is largely because of Watsonville’s close proximity to Santa Cruz (15 miles) and San Jose (30 miles).
There are currently 62 schools in Watsonville, including 35 private learning institutions and 27 public schools. Watsonville High School is the largest of the public schools and is home to roughly 2,000 students. In addition to the grade schools, middle schools, and high schools, Watsonville students are served by three colleges. University of California Santa Cruz, Cabrillo College, and California State University at Monterey Bay all provide a long list of undergraduate and graduate programs, ensuring that all interested students can pursue a degree in the field of their choice.
Even though Watsonville is largely known for its farming and agricultural industries, the Watsonville housing market in the area is still highly competitive. Most properties that are listed for sell in Watsonville receive an accepted offer in less than 30 days. However, unlike other communities in the Bay Area where properties usually sell for more than $1 million, properties for sale in Watsonville usually sell for closer to $900,000.
Watsonville provides a happy medium for people who are interested in living in the Bay Area but don’t necessarily want to live in a major metropolitan area such as San Jose. If you’re interested in looking for homes for sale in Watsonville, it’s a good idea to work with a REALTOR who is not only familiar with the area, but also one who has a proven record of success in helping buyers find the property of their dreams. Additionally, if you believe that it’s time to sell your Watsonville property, experience and client care are of the utmost importance. Contact me today and let me know how I can best serve all of your Watsonville real estate needs!