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Cottage Grove Strawberry Fest 2013 preview: New thrills in store

Most Cottage Grove Strawberry Fest activities, including the carnival, run Thursday to Sunday, with the ambassador coronation Monday night. Bulletin file photo

The annual Cottage Grove Strawberry Fest is the perfect opportunity for south Washington County residents and area visitors to indulge in one of the sweetest fruits summer has to offer.

This year, the four-day festival promises a plethora of finger-food options, as well as plenty of strawberry dishes and desserts, and family fun in the sun. Lori Olsen, who leads the Strawberry Fest committee, said while the weather hasn't recently cooperated, she is hoping for a warm festival weekend.

"We're all just hoping and praying that it doesn't rain," she said.

Strawberry Fest kicks off Thursday, June 13, in Kingston Park with community night, formerly teen night, and a live band performance. The festival information booth will be open for visitors during the day and Afton Apple strawberries will go on sale. Back again this year are the popular Happ-E-Hill train rides, kids power pedal tractor pull and carnival midway with a few added attractions.

"Berry Lucky" is the theme for this year's Strawberry Fest and Cottage Grove resident Lori Kugel designed the winning logo. As a lover of all things strawberries, Kugel enlisted the help of her daughter and daughter's friends to help design the new logo. The strawberry clover is Kugel's interpretation of the four-leaf clover and represents the 2013 event.

"Lori did a great job with the logo design," Olsen said. "We're hoping that some of the parade floats will play off this theme."

The Business Expo opens Saturday with more than 70 exhibitors showcasing their work from art, food products and fitness to home goods, construction and financial help.

Saturday's Grande Parade will see a slight change in the assembly area as Crossroads Church prepares to move back into its former building at the corner of 80th Street and Jamaica Avenue. Parade floats will assemble on 80th Street east of Jamaica Avenue, instead of in the church parking lot. The parade route north on Jamaica Avenue and east on Indian Boulevard will stay the same. Due to the new float lineup, 80th Street will be briefly closed to traffic from Jamaica Avenue to Jocelyn Avenue while the floats prepare for the parade.

New main stage acts

Shake off the last of your cabin fever jitters with three nights of dancing to the sounds of two new bands, 8 Foot 4 and Maiden Dixie, and returning act Common Ground.

The Minneapolis-based party band 8 Foot 4 is a quartet that plays music from the last three decades and today's popular songs. Debuting their talents at this year's festival, Olsen said the band is sure to get people moving on Thursday evening.

Bringing the twang and folk country tunes on Friday night is Maiden Dixie, a seven-piece band on the verge of releasing their debut record. On Saturday, Common Ground and its hard rock covers return to the main stage to wrap up the weekend of live music.

"These are some good bands that we're really excited about having this year," Olsen said.

Wet and wild additions

What is summer without an old-fashioned water balloon fight? This year, festival goers can partake in a water fight of epic proportions sponsored by Water Wars. The activity will include water balloon launchers, water balloon guns, battle stations and gallons upon gallons of water.

"It's going to be a lot of fun for not just the young kids but for adults as well," Olsen said.

The Water Wars station is only open on Saturday.

If a slower speed and less water is your ideal activity, try the mini golf course, which is new this year. Sponsored by the Cottage Grove Lions Club, the mini golf course is open to all ages for a nominal fee.

Don't forget to bring Fido to Strawberry Fest. Another new activity designed just for pups less than 30 pounds is the Doggie Dash. The event has pooches sprinting down a racetrack for prizes and top honors.

Makeover surprise

If an afternoon of pampering and a professional makeover is something that you might like, make sure you're at the main stage a 1 p.m. Saturday to find out if you've been chosen as part of the brand new event Ambush Makeover.

Sponsored by Belissimo Salon and Day Spa in Cottage Grove, the ambush makeover selects three people from the crowd to receive a complete makeover. The lucky winners will be whisked away for the afternoon and given the star treatment. Shortly before the band begins playing Saturday night, a big reveal is planned.

"We're very excited about this event," Olsen said.

Once again, high-flying adventures can be found inside the cockpit of a MN Helicopter,Inc., chopper. Depending on weather, Olsen said, participants can pay a fee to board the helicopter and go for a ride high above the city.

"I would say more than 200 people rode in the helicopter last year," Olsen said. "Once you get in the helicopter, you can pick where you want to go. It takes off right at Kingston Park and you will get a bird's eye view of Strawberry Fest."

Riders can request a destination, within reason, of course, Olsen said, and most of the riders last year took a quick ride north across the river to Hudson.

If feeling the wind in your hair is what you're after, then how about a hot air balloon ride? Because of uncooperative weather last year, the balloon rides weren't an option. However, Olsen is optimistic it will take off this year.

"We have it scheduled once again and we're hoping they will be a big hit," she said.