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May 17, 2013

35th annual Starlight Strawberry Festival May 25

STARLIGHT —  When Joe Huber and Daisy Book were looking for a way to honor local strawberry farmers in the area, they probably had no idea that 35 years later, their idea would attract nearly 10,000 visitors each year.

But that is exactly what organizers are expecting on Saturday, May 25, at the 35th annual Strawberry Festival held at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Starlight.

Activities begin at 8 a.m. with the 5k Run for the Berries and will end at 8 p.m. This year for the first time, the street dance was moved up a week, held May 17.

“We wanted to try something different,” said Damon Andres, festival committee chairman. “This is kind of a way to kickoff the event ... it’s like our Thunder Over Louisville which kicks off the Derby festival. And this way our workers can get everything cleaned up and put away fairly early.”

Also this year, the queen contest has given way to the Little Miss and Mister Shortcake contest which is open to boys and girls ages 3 to 6. The entry deadline is Thursday, May 23, and the fee is $15. For more information on the contest or to enter your child, email Lindsey Koetter at lkoetter@wclark.k12.in.us. The winner will be picked from a drawing so all entrants have the same chance of winning.

The usual crowd favorites are back again this year including the famous build your own shortcake booth and the buffet dinner which includes fried chicken and ham along with all the traditional fixings.

“I love watching the kids at the build your own shortcake booth. They get so excited,” said Cindy Stumler, a committee member and longtime volunteer. “We’ve just made a few changes through the years, but the same things people enjoyed 30 years ago they still enjoy today ... the build your own shortcake booth and chicken dinner.

“Those ladies work so hard on the dinner. They start making dumplings months in advance and freeze them. They work the entire week of the festival preparing food.”

There will also be several booths with games of chance, and country store with homemade baked goods, carnival rides for children, a soap box derby track and bingo. Visitors can also enjoy live entertainment throughout the day. There will also be a  beer garden for adults. Admission is free and the festival is the church’s largest fundraiser.

“Our whole community comes together to pull this off,” Andres said. “I think people enjoy the food. Everything is homemade ... our dinner is top-notch.”

At the build your own shortcake booth, Andres estimates more than 600 gallons of strawberries will be used. All berries are brought in for the event since local berries are not ripe enough to handle the volume needed.

However, there will be an auction at 2 p.m. where local berry farmers bring in a gallon of their best berries for the homegrown strawberry auction. The person who bids the highest not only gets the berries, but the money will go to the charity of their choice.

Andres, 34, grew up across the street from the church and said the festival is a big part of his life.

“I’ve gone from a little boy who would help out and work to chairman of the festival,” he said.

The festival used to be a two-day event, but several years ago was moved to one day. 

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