Every year in late June, events dedicated to celebrating strawberries offer shortcake, barbecues, local vendors and live music. From a decades-old tradition to a first-time festival, there’s a strawberry-themed event that suits your tastes perfectly.
Strawberries and serenades
Since the 1960s, the Hollis Town Band and Hollis Woman’s Club have teamed up to bring homemade shortcake and live music to the community during the annual Hollis Strawberry Festival.
“The Hollis Town Band used to do it themselves, and then it became a bigger event,” festival chair Kimber Harmon said in a phone interview. “The wives of the band would pick the berries and make the shortcake. Then the Woman’s Club took it over. I know we’ve been doing it since 1963.”
Over the years, the organizers worked hard to keep the festival to its core focus of remaining a simple, small town event.
“It’s about the music and the shortcakes,” Harmon said. “You’re here to just enjoy.”
Using a new (but always homemade) recipe this year, about 40 volunteer bakers from the Woman’s Club will get together the Friday and Saturday before the festival to turn 450 quarts of strawberries from Lull Farm and Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis into 80 pans of strawberry shortcake, which can be eaten with homemade whipped cream or ice cream from Dr. Davis Ice Cream in Pepperell, Mass.
“Our focus is a family-friendly event. You can feed the family for $20,” she said.
When asked what makes the strawberry special enough to warrant its own festival, Harmon reflected on Hollis’s roots.
“Have you been out to Hollis? You know that it’s a farming community,” she said. “It’s the height of the strawberry season, and there’s nothing like eating homegrown fresh strawberries.”
Scott Blewitt, recreation director for the New London Recreation Department, knew he wanted to bring a strawberry festival to town when he first took the job three years ago.
“I quickly realized how many strawberries Spring Ledge Farm produced right down the road,” he said in a phone interview. “So I thought this would be the perfect fit.”
Together the New London Recreation Department, Center for the Arts, New London Historical Society and the Lake Sunapee Region Chamber of Commerce partnered to create the first annual New London Strawberry Festival.
“I think we all had the common goal of having an event in New London to celebrate the strawberry season, especially to kind of start off the summer prior to the Fourth of July,” Blewitt said.
The two-day festival kicks off on Saturday at the Town Green with a fine arts vendor display from the Center for the Arts, children’s entertainment, local food and craft vendors and strawberry shortcakes from the New London Recreation Department.
“There’ll be strawberries for sale at Spring Ledge Farm and I’m sure we’ll have little pints or half pints for sale on the Town Green,” he said.
On Sunday, the New London Historical Society will host Day 2 of the festival with strawberry ice cream, alpacas, horse-drawn buggy rides and old-time games.
“Being the first year I think this is just going to gain momentum and next year will be even bigger and better,” Blewitt said. “But I think this has wonderful potential and is the start of a New London tradition.”
Community, church and berries
For the Bow Mills United Methodist Church, its seventh annual strawberry festival will continue to fulfill the goal of highlighting the local community while supporting the work done through the congregation.
“I would say it has grown every year in the number of vendors as well as of the people who come, and it’s a pretty good spread,” Rev. Virginia Fryer said in a phone interview.
Included in the day’s events are a blessing of the animals, dog agility course demonstration, live music from an area jazz band and a performance by the church’s junior choir.
“And there’s always food. The church does a food booth with hamburgers, hot dogs, [Italian] sausage and then, of course, the hit of the day is the strawberry shortcake,” Fryer said.
Church members pick and hull the berries before making biscuits for the “good-sized strawberry shortcake” from scratch, she said.
One hundred percent of the festival proceeds are given to area missions, split this year between the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness and a fund for three of the church’s youth to participate in mission trips.
“It’s really exciting that the proceeds are able to give life-transforming experiences to the kids from our church,” she said.
As seen in the June 25, 2015 issue of the Hippo.