GREENFIELD – With a larger tent reserved, more shortcake ingredients purchased and a chosen date to coincide with other local events, Strawberry Festival organizers are hoping to build on last year’s event when the 38th festival takes place on Friday (June 10). is opened.
The Bradley United Methodist Church will be serving strawberries, shortcake, ice cream and live entertainment on the property at the southwest corner of Main and Pennsylvania Streets Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The property is south of and off US 40 from the church; The church address is 210 W. Main St.
Organizers say they baked about 1,300 shortcakes for the 2021 festival, which did well even when temperatures were in the upper 80s – so well that organizers shut down walk-up service for about an hour to make sure they could serve about 700 presale tickets to buyers when they came by. This year festival planners are working to increase capacity as they prepare to serve 1,500 visitors.
Still, “We really recommend that people buy their tickets in advance so they don’t have to worry,” said Kathy Locke, a longtime church member. “We will try to serve all the way through.”
Locke is part of a committee of about 30 Bradley members who work in smaller teams to cover various aspects of the celebrations, from courtship to cooking to queuing entertainment and cleanup. A touring group from the church carried flyers for the festival and browsed downtown shops.
Last year was Bradley’s first year showcasing the downtown tradition. Men of First Presbyterian Church, meeting nearby at 116 South St., started the festival in 1984. Over the years it became a church-wide endeavor, and in the later years of the festival’s presentation First Presbyterian sought community partners like the local Tri Kappa sorority.
The First Presbyterian passed the baton of the Strawberry Festival to Bradley in early 2020, but this year’s festival was canceled amid COVID. First Presbyterian closed in July of that year.
But the binder filled with notes that First Presbyterians passed on to Bradley, along with their years of knowledge of how to organize the event, has benefited the current organizers of the Bradley festival, said another organizer, Julie Rogers.
“We were just tweaking things,” Rogers said. “You took great notes.”
Subtle changes included making individual drop biscuit-style shortcakes in hopes that they stay fresher longer than shortcake sheets cut into rectangles, and adding a larger tent this year to allow for more shaded seating .
“Every year that we do it, we’re going to try to tweak things to make it better,” Rogers said.
Locke said this year’s Strawberry Festival will coincide with other events in the area, such as downtown shops opening later on the second Friday and Two Jasons in Lizabuth Ann’s Kitchen behind the James Whitcomb Riley Boyhood Home and Museum.
“We want everyone to come out if they can,” Locke said. “There will be things to do that you could make an evening out of.”
The festival itself features on-site entertainment including traditional favorite Larry Von Essen with his accordion.
Alongside Von Essen’s shortcake and accordion music, another festival tradition continues: Proceeds benefit local community organizations. Last year, six nonprofit organizations received $1,300 each. This year, eight have been selected to benefit. Organizations know in advance and can help drive festival traffic by encouraging their supporters to support the festival.
Locke said festival leaders didn’t tell organizations what to use the proceeds for and envisioned the money could support post-COVID operating costs. Debra Weber, general manager of Love INC in Greater Hancock County, said the money Love INC receives actually goes towards general operating expenses. “Bradley UMC is a wonderful supporter of local services, and Love INC is blessed to be one of the recipients!” she said.
Jill Ebbert, executive director of the Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen, said Bradley has been actively helping to support the purchase of take-out containers for guests’ meals since the pandemic began.
“The Strawberry Festival is another way we support our operating budget,” Ebbert said. “Proceeds from the event will be used to purchase these necessary items.”
Hope House chief executive Andrea Mallory said the homeless shelter is grateful to local churches like Bradley and the festival money will help as Hope House seeks “to expand our program to increase our service,” she said.
“Thank you to such a wonderful community and we definitely need everyone’s help to transform lives day by day.”