The annual Strawberry Festival on Boca Grande was a beautiful 2011 event held in great weather despite a January cold snap threatening to send strawberry prices through the roof and quality into the basement.
Weather is always key to the outdoor party and it will be again as the annual United Methodist Church Women's Strawberry Festival opens at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, March 3. The Strawberry Festival always attracts hundreds of residents and visitors with bargain items and the legendary strawberry shortcake served at the Crowninshield House at Second and Railroad.
Strawberry Festival President Sara Moll, festival co-chair along with past President Beth Paxton and future President Kathi Hustedt, are all hoping mild winter continues into the spring. It's the only thing they can't plan for ahead of time.
Strawberry Festival presidents past, present and future, from left: Future President Kathi Hustedt, past President Beth Paxton and present President Sara Moll.
"It's our only fund-raiser," Moll said. "We want to get it exactly right."
Near-perfect weather conditions allowed Florida strawberry growers to kick off the harvest in late October. Thanksgiving weekend is typically the start of winter picking season. Acreage planted this year is estimated at 11,000 or about 1,000 acres more than last year.
"Florida's cool nights and warm days have made the berries particularly sweet and the shipping quality is excellent," said Ted Campbell, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association.
What: 2012 Strawberry Festival
Who: Ladies of the Boca Grande United Methodist Church
When: 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 3
Where: Crowninshield House and Boca Grande Community center grounds
For more info: Call Blanche Johnson, 964-0697
Strawberry Fest leaders
Co-Chairs: Sara Moll, Beth Paxton, Kathi Hustedt
Treasurer: Barbara Greene
Strawberry Shortcake: Kay Billman, Jan Myers, Judy Sandbo
Bake sale: Bebe Wesselman
Bargain Sale: Dian Klepser, Jane Caple
Boutique: Nancy Lyons
Community Outreach: Marilyn Witt
Dazzling Digs: Marjorie Moore, Judy Thomas
Furniture: Lindy Hustedt, Richard Klepser
Grilled Food and Drinks: Ed Paxton
Publicity: Blanche Johnson
Set-up/Tear-down: Curt Moll/Martin Lyons
Silent Auction: Gloria Mitchell, Madelaine McCrady
Volunteer Coordinators: Candy Rost, Joan Senior
Size so far is medium to large and the berries are bright red, juicy and delicious, Campbell said. Barring a cold snap, the season will run through March.
Two consecutive years of freezing temperatures and heavy rainfall have left growers optimistic mild weather will continue through the harvest season, he said.
The Strawberry Festival is one of the most important and diversified island fund drives. The Strawberry Festival raised more than $75,000 for its charities in 2010, according to Strawberry Fest officials.
Some slight adjustments have been made this year to the Strawberry Festival.
This year, the Bake Sale will feature favorite recipes and goodies of all flavors instead of exclusively strawberry recipes, said Blanche Johnson, publicity chair. Also, the live auction has been placed on hiatus.
The "Dazzling Dig" for jewelry buried in sand is back for a second year, though, and dozens of valuable items will be offered to bidders at the popular silent auction.
The Boutique shop will offer new and cared-for merchandise. Other attractions include the UMC Ladies Bake Sale, which always sells out quickly.
Proceeds benefit the following charities, a reduction from 21 a year ago: