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May the fun be with you at the Cottage Grove Strawberry Fest

Hundreds gathered along Jamaica Avenue in Cottage Grove last year to take part in the Strawberry Festival Grande Parade. (Bulletin file photo)

Climb aboard the “Strawbinnium Eagle,” as Cottage Grove City Council member Dave Thiede dubbed it, and take part in this year’s Star Wars-themed Strawberry Festival.

The annual four-day get-together is packed with family-friendly events including the popular pie eating and Top Chef contests, carnival, talent show and the return of Belissimo Salon and Day Spa’s Ambush Makeover.

Longtime Strawberry Fest organizer Lori Olsen said her hope for the event is the same as previous years: good weather.

“We’re really pushing for no rain,” she said. “That would really be great.”

Last year, soggy weather spoiled much of Saturday’s daytime events.

Strawberry Fest begins Thursday, June 19, in Kingston Park with Community Night, hosting the kid power pedal tractor pull followed by the band Free & Easy on the main stage. The carnival will be open, as well as food vendors and the informational booth.

Be prepared to see a familiar animated mug around the event as the “Star Wars” sage Yoda is the face of the event.

Cottage Grove teen Gary Riege, a lifelong “Star Wars” enthusiast, designed this year’s button using Yoda’s mug, an idea he got from his dog with the same name.

“We were sitting around as a group planning for this year’s event and one of the members came up with the idea of Star Wars,” Olsen said. “And Gary’s button design fit perfectly with the theme.”

Olsen said Strawberry Fest participants can expect a larger carnival and more vendors at the Business Expo, with some setting up underneath a large tent.

Event-goers will see the return of helicopter rides, sponsored by MN Helicopter, Inc., hot air balloon rides, sponsored by Re/Max and the bungee trampoline, sponsored by Arcade Highway.

The St. Paul Park/Newport Lions Club will sponsor the beer garden Friday and Saturday.

Parade rerouted

Drawing hundreds from around the area, the Strawberry Fest Grande Parade is often the highlight of the weekend.

Adults and young alike line Jamaica Avenue and load up on candy, freebies and small prizes. This year, the beginning of the parade route will revert to its original path.

Last year, construction at theAlley Church forced the floats to assemble along 80th Street, east of Jamaica Avenue, instead of the church’s parking lot.  

“Last year it came up 80th and did not start across from theAlley Church,” Olsen said. “But we’re back where it’s been in previous years.”

The parade route will continue north on Jamaica Avenue, then turn east on Indian Boulevard and end at Cottage Grove Middle School.

On the main stage

Celebrate the return of warmer weather and evenings under the stars with three nights of music in Kingston Park.

Opening night of Strawberry Fest showcases the jazz, funk style of Twin Cities natives, Free & Easy. The five-member group of studio musicians and singers will entertain the crowd Thursday and “awaken a new generation of music lovers,” the band’s biography said.

On Friday, Maiden Dixie marks its return to the city festival and brings along its country-rock ensemble of musicians. Formed in 2011, Maiden Dixie is comprised of seven performers that blend together country, rock, blue and folk genres.

Saturday afternoon is reserved for youngsters as the Teddy Bear Band takes the stage, and in the evening, the adults will take in Sell Out Stereo. Dubbed S.O.S., the cover band “meticulously dissects each song and performs them as well as or better than the original artists,” the bio said.

For a full schedule of entertainment, visit the Strawberry Fest website.

Button, tickets available for purchase

Pre-sale tickets and the official Strawberry Fest button are now available for purchase at various locations throughout Cottage Grove, including City Hall, 12800 Ravine Parkway.

For $15, the purchaser will receive a book of 10 pre-sale tickets. With pre-sale tickets, rides will only cost one ticket. Pre-sale tickets may be purchased through the close of business day Thursday.

Tickets purchased after Thursday or at the carnival will cost $1 each. The typical cost per ride is between two and three tickets for kid rides and four to five tickets for adult rides.

The Strawberry Fest buttons cost $3 and are available at City Hall, Cub Foods, the Cottage Grove Lions Club, the South Washington County Bulletin, through festival Ambassador candidates and at various businesses.

An event button is required to be admitted into the coronation ceremony Monday evening at Park High School.

Along with the button comes a raffle ticket for prizes including Mississippi Dunes golf packages and gift certificates, a one-night stay at Country Inn & Suites, $750 in cash and more.

For a complete list of prizes, visit the Strawberry Fest website.