Nice to be thinking about strawberries in FebruaryI was trying to think about anything but ice and snow last week. After coming close to frostbite while photographing the Wakota Bridge, I am happily thinking about strawberries.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
I was trying to think about anything but ice and snow last week. After coming close to frostbite while photographing the Wakota Bridge, I am happily thinking about strawberries.
The Strawberry Fest Committee is busy planning for the celebration in Cottage Grove slated to begin June 14.
I called Justin Olsen to see if there are going to be homegrown strawberries for the celebration. It always tickled me when Strawberry Fests in the past had berries shipped in from California.
It’s been my experience that successful civic celebrations are only as good as the people who commit hours and days to organizing them. Olsen, who appears to be one of those selfless and outstanding people, told me we will, indeed, have fresh berries. But Minnesota weather in the spring can be fickle. If there is a lot of rain and little sun, berries might not be ripe in time.
But the Strawberry Fest committee has a backup plan.
Cindy and Frank Femling, Cottage Grove residents and owners of Afton Apple, have committed to help.
They run a very successful apple orchard operation in Denmark Township. They also have a pick-your-own strawberry patch.
They belong to a grower’s association that will find ripe berries in Iowa, according to Olsen, if local berries are not yet ripe. At least that’s closer than California.
There will also be two entertainment stages at Strawberry Fest, one for bands as in previous years. The second Afton Apple stage will offer more community-based activities, Olsen said, such as gymnastics and canine demonstrations.
Currently, the festival committee is evaluating entries for how Strawberry Fest buttons will look. The person submitting the winning entry will be the parade’s grand marshal in spite of my volunteering for the role. Oh well, maybe next year.
Today’s festival has its roots in the first carnival held in June of 1965 sponsored by the Cottage Grove Jaycees. “It was just a carnival with rides, nothing else,” said Jack Lavold, one of the original Jaycees and one of only a few with reliable memories, according to me.
The date, in the second week of June, was determined by the fact that it was the only week the carnival was available.
It was held for several years in the area on the west side of Highway 61, south of the Youth Service Bureau.
Tickets were sold by Jaycees and at local businesses for $1 for a strip of 10 tickets.
Jaycees added a beer tent for the second year, Lavold said.
The carnival moved to the shopping center now anchored by Rainbow Foods for a time.
I’m not sure when the carnival morphed into Strawberry Fest but the city was well-known in the metropolitan area for u-pick strawberry patches across from Pine Hill Elementary School and, later, Zywiec’s on Highway 61 across from River Oaks Golf Course.
Brother George took me to Watsonville, Calif., when I visited San Jose. I loved seeing acres of strawberries and eating them.
But there is nothing like a Minnesota-grown strawberry. See you at the Fest.