Ever Heard of Strawberry Festival?
All over North America in the late spring season, small villages, towns and even communities in large cities start gearing up for the excitement of their annual strawberry festivals. If you’ve never been to a strawberry festival, you are missing out on a sweet opportunity!
A strawberry festival is a community event that takes place in many different towns and communities scattered all across the United States and Canada. It is a harvest celebration, much like the ones we have in the autumn season, except it celebrates the spring and early summer harvest and production of the strawberry – one of the most delicious and versatile foods available so early in the year, especially in colder climates. You can create so many sweet and delectable dishes, jams, jellies and other foods with the strawberry, but save your appetite – we’ll get to that later!
The Beginning of the Berry
The very first strawberry festival was organized and celebrated in 1850, but first, let’s take a quick look back at the history of strawberry in North America, and how the strawberry festival came into fruition! We’re going to bring you even further back in time before the age of the first colonists in America. The Native Americans had already been harvesting strawberries and enjoying them in prepared foods for a long time before European settlers were introduced to the little red berry. They were plentiful, and there wasn’t any need to cultivate them. Such an abundance of them grew in the wild and they were so easy to find. The first European settlers in America were impressed by the little fruit, and quickly sent shipments of large strawberry plants back to Europe near the beginning of 1600. Europeans also found a different variety of the plant in Central and South America, which the conquistadors referred to as “futilla”.
People eventually began to realize that cultivation of the strawberry was going to be a necessity if they wanted to
continue successfully harvesting the plants at a rate that was rapidly picking up pace – as demands for the berry were increasing. Interest in the strawberry overwhelmed the regions where the plants were harvested, when strawberries and cream became a widely popular and luxurious dessert. New York was a strawberry hub of sorts in the early part of the 19th century, and with the advent of the railroad quickly began to send crate after crate of harvested strawberries by cooled railroad car to Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas and Florida. The strawberry farming, packing and shipping business was well underway, and the very first strawberry festival was in the making!
The Strawberry Festival – Spring Success!
These days, over seventy five percent of North America’s strawberry crops are harvested in the state of California, USA, but the delicious little red berry is grown all over the world. Strawberry festival celebrations have also gained popularity and spread across the North American continent.
Strawberry festivals truly are a slice of Americana, representing an era in American history when county fairs and festivals brought communities together in celebration of the harvests they had all worked hard on, and depended on. It is widely stated that the very first modest strawberry festival was held in 1850, and like the mighty strawberry itself, the festivals began cropping up all across the United States.
The strawberry festival was a much anticipated event, especially being so early in the year. It was a celebration that brought entire communities together, as most of the people in the areas had been involved in some fashion with the farming, the picking, marketing, boxing, and shipping of these berries – or eagerly awaited the harvest in order to begin making pies, tarts, and preserves for the year.
The strawberry festival represented a successful spring harvest and hopes for a wonderful summer, gratitude for the community’s hard work, as well as the promotion of the farmers’ crop yields. Parades, food, contests, song and dance are all a part of the festivities.
The first modern strawberry festival held in 1953 at the home of Bill Airey at Capalaba was organized in order to raise funds for the Capalaba School of Arts hall that year. The successful strawberry festival was later revived in 1958 at Victoria Point by local strawberry farmers who were enjoying a season of particularly overabundant produce.
The strawberry festival at Victoria Point was moved to the Cleveland Show Grounds in 1965 in order to promote local farmers’ strawberry yields, and to drum up some much needed funding for a variety of local community groups and charity organisations. Later, in 2002, after years of successful events the committee elected to then change the festival to the Redland Spring Festival to embrace all of the ongoing changes that were happening within their community.
Over the past 55 years, the strawberry festival committee has successfully organised a vast array of festivities including the world renowned strawberry eating competition, the community’s street parade, annual strawberry queens, the great strawberry ball, talent contests, rodeos, bicycle races, animal shows, side shows, various workshops, performances and much more. The event has grown into such an enormous success, turning out to be one of the festivals around the world that are worth to attend at least once in your life.
What’s a strawberry festival without loads and loads of strawberries? A typical strawberry festival is overflowing with snacks, desserts and all kinds of foods made from the sweet berry:
- cakes, and of course…
- strawberry shortcake
- strawberry lemonade
- dried strawberries
- strawberry nut breads
Of course this list is only a fraction of the different types of dishes you can prepare using strawberries, and only some of the food you can find at a strawberry festival. The festivals also have food vendors selling other farm produce and what would be considered “fair food” as well – hotdogs, hamburgers, french fries and pizza, candy and ice cream.
Strawberry Festivals all over North America
Montana’s largest strawberry festival takes place in Downtown Billings at SkyPoint. The aim of the festival is to celebrate “all that is spring into summer!” The strawberry festival begins with a pancake breakfast at 7:30 am and then opens its one hundred vendor booths offering art, crafts, food and other fun things. A children’s activity area keeps little ones happy, live performances entertain crowds all afternoon, and the event ends with the creation and ceremonial cutting of an enormous strawberry shortcake!
Date: June 13th
Official Website: http://downtownbillings.com/events/strawberry-festival/
The Annual Strawberry Festival of LaSalle, Ontario Canada kicks off when two tons of fresh strawberries ceremoniously arrive at the LaSalle Fire Department for the days’ events! LaSalle’s Annual Strawberry Festival hosts a wide variety of events that all take place over the four day duration of the region’s strawberry festival. The festivities are family friendly fun and are geared towards participants of all ages. The festival is held each year at Gil Maure park.
Date: June 9-12, 2016
Official Website: http://www.town.lasalle.on.ca/en/things-to-do/strawberry-festival.asp
The California Strawberry Festival is a huge event, with food, contests, rides and other attractions. When you arrive at the California Strawberry Festival, be prepared for the little ones in their strawberry costumes for the “Best Dressed Baby Contest,” the “Berry Best Hat” contest, a strawberry relay race, strawberry pie eating contests, a strawberry tart tossing game, a strawberry shortcake building contest and much, much more family fun and entertainment. Two different stages offer performances throughout the weekend, and over 200 booths of artists and crafters are there to show off their skills. There’s also a “Kids Interactive Berry Patch” where children can make their own strawberry themed crafts to take home!
Date: Saturday and Sunday May 21 and 22, 2016
Official Website: http://strawberry-fest.org/
Lebanon, Oregon hosts a yearly strawberry festival that began in 1909 in celebration of terrific strawberry yields in the Mid-Willamette Valley. The strawberry festival’s organizers were the city’s prominent business owners and citizens, and helped to found the event and its Rose Show and parades. As the years went by, the strawberry festival continued to be a success. It evolved into an independent non-profit organization in 1982, and went on to make themselves known for having the world’s largest strawberry shortcake – served for free to over twenty thousand spectators. They also host the Junior and Grand Parades, the Strawberry 5k Run and One Mile Health Walk, a carnival, a fireworks display, a strawberry Queen’s coronation, and a great open air country fair.
Date: June 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th
Official Website: http://www.lebanonstrawberryfestival.info/
Beginning in 1930 when Plant City Lions Club organized an event to celebrate the abundant strawberry harvest, The Florida Strawberry Festival was conceived and continues to take place in America’s sunshine state every spring. This annual event invites festival goers from throughout the United States and the world. When you visit the Florida Strawberry Festival, you can expect to be greeted by the sights and sounds of parades, marching bands, live musical performances and entertainment. You should also check out the agricultural exhibits, fine art displays, and arts and crafts booths. Don’t miss the Florida Strawberry Festival Queen’s Pageant, and the Junior Royalty Competition. The Florida Strawberry Festival aims to preserve the historical legacy of agriculture and the Florida strawberry.
Date: March 3 – 13
Official Website: http://www.flstrawberryfestival.com/
A major tourist attraction for the state of Texas and southestern United States, Poteet Texas’s annual strawberry festival takes place in early April, making good use of the state’s warmer climate! This festival started in 1948 when the Poteet Rotary Club came together to organize the first strawberry festival in effort to incite returning World War II veterans to return to agricultural business and farming. The Poteet Rotary Club’s next vision was the improvement of the packaging that berries were sold in, so buyers would be able to purchase a uniform pint, flat, or crate of strawberries. Now, Poteet aims to make the public more aware of their endangered crop of strawberries, and also provide scholarships to educate the Poteet youth with their strawberry festival proceeds. The Poteet Strawberry Festival has become a major economic generator for the regions of South Texas and Atascosa County, putting an estimated $10-$12 million dollars into the South Texas economy.
Date: April 8 – 10
Official Website: http://www.strawberryfestival.com/
Located in scenic downtown Cedarburg Wisconsin, this strawberry festival draws crowds of over one hundred thousand visitors per year. Festival goers are eager to take in the historic sights, the sounds of the festival music, and of course – the taste of delicious Wisconsin strawberries. Sunday morning marks the annual all-you-can-eat Strawberry Pancake Breakfast, where you can get your fill of pancakes while you enjoy the live music. Strawberry blush wine is available, and a colossal painting competition and resultant art showcase fills the streets with artists capturing scenes of the city and festival. Historic walks, hay rides, and a rubber duck race are among other activities that are fun for all ages.
Date: June 25 to June 26
Official Website: http://www.cedarburg.org/event/1465436-strawberry-festival-2016
Visit information about festivals section to explore a full list of festivals happening around the world yearly!