The cooler temperatures Saturday didn’t seem to keep locals or tourists from enjoying the first St. Andrew’s Strawberry Festival since 2019.
Flats of beautiful red strawberries were continuously being delivered to the tent where event chair Julie Hunter and other volunteers were serving visitors. Those running the crepe stand were working quickly to keep up with demand, while more than 100 guests sat down to enjoy the music of the Niagara-
A large contingent of volunteers was working the barbecue, while further back on the church grounds thousands of books lined the ever-popular book sale table. Church members were selling strawberry jam and other preserves under another separate marquee as well.
“They’re wonderful,” Hunter said about the quality of the berries this year. “Tigchelaar Farms in Vineland is where we get them. And on Monday, we hulled berries that were donated from Seaway Farms. We made the jam with them. That was a really nice gesture from the Pillitteri family.”
Though Hunter estimated that the crowds may have been slightly smaller than in previous years, from the look on most attendees’ faces, the enjoyment factor may have actually been exponentially higher.
The Strawberry Festival is the unofficial kick-off to the summer festival season in NOTL. The fact that it actually happened this year brought a feeling of relief and celebration to those in attendance after two years of COVID cancellations.
There were a few changes to the festival this year, though, brought about by the events of the pandemic.
“We didn’t sell flowers this year, or yogurt, and we didn’t run Granny’s Attic,” Hunter said. “That’s due to space inside the hall. We wanted to keep things spacious for people’s comfort and to enhance social distancing.”
A silent auction was the only event being held inside the Kirk Hall this year, keeping indoor crowds smaller. The festival also decided not to have an inflatable castle for the kids for similar reasons.
Preparation for the festival took place all week long. Hunter estimated that there were as many as 150 volunteers involved Saturday, working in shifts to keep things running smoothly from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Of course, many were members of the St. Andrew’s congregation, but Hunter was quick to add that politicians, members of other churches and community members in general all chipped in to help.
“In the town, you see a lot of the same people helping out at all the festivals,” Hunter explained. “St. Mark’s Cherry Festival is after us in July, the Peach Festival at St. Vincent de Paul is in August. We all support each other. Working together is a real bonus.”
Liza Klepacs of Port Dalhousie has been volunteering at the festival for eight years, either at the pie or crepe stands.
“It’s nice to see everybody out enjoying the festival again,” Klepacs said. “The food is fantastic and the entertainment is great, too. It’s a fantastic day out.”
She was enjoying some crepes with Jameson Alma, who was visiting from Ottawa. Though his parents live in NOTL and he comes to town often, it was his first time at the festival.
“It’s fantastic, and this is such great weather,” he told The Local. “And the crepes are great.”