Berry good: Annual festival draws hundreds for food, fun

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — Air show? What air show? Large crowds gathered in South Berwick on Saturday to eat strawberries – not marvel at the aerial demonstrations taking place down the road at the Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth.

The South Berwick Strawberry Festival, an annual event which takes place on the last Saturday in June, was well-attended by both South Berwick residents and out-of-staters alike.

Kasandra Michajlov, a senior marketing major at the University of New Hampshire, said she came to the event to see what all the buzz was about.

“I’ve heard about the Strawberry Festival ever since I’ve been at UNH,” Michajlov said. “I was in the area visiting my friend so we decided to check it out.”

As far as her take on the event? “It’s a ton of fun, the fried dough is really good,” Michajlov gushed.

Michajlov, from Norton, Massachusetts, wasn’t the only one who came a long way to partake in Saturday’s event.

Stephen DuBois, from Chicago, Illinois, was in the area visiting relatives. “It’s a very nice event,” he remarked, “South Berwick looks like a tight-knit community.”

Saturday’s event was held under clear skies and a shining sun — but for many, the heat, which reached the upper 80s during the hottest parts of the day Saturday — proved to be a little too warm.

“We’re heading to the beach, the ocean sounds pretty refreshing right about now,” Alex Young remarked while walking off with a group of friends.

Even with the hot temperatures, South Berwick’s Strawberry Festival appeared to be a huge success. The town’s Central School was hardly visible from the roadside — overrun by tents, vendors, and hundreds of excited visitors.

The parking lot and athletic fields located behind the school proved no different. Numerous food and beverage stands were dispersed throughout the school’s back parking lot. The South Berwick Fire Department’s hot dog and hamburger grill also appeared to be a highly popular attraction at the food court.

Children’s activities included a giant inflatable tiger slide, a trampoline bungee jump, and a face painting station, among others.

“Both my kids are having a blast,” Jennifer Mitchell, a mother of two sons, ages 12 and 9 said. “They’ve been on the tiger slide for the past two hours, they’ll certainly be asleep early tonight,” she said with a laugh.

Khayyan Mohammed, the Strawberry Festival’s publicity coordinator, had estimated a strong showing the day before — his prediction appeared accurate. “We are certainly expecting a bigger turnout than last year,” Mohammed said Friday. “With the weather being warm it should be a very busy day.”

Strawberry Festival participants, visitors, and volunteers also helped support a great cause. All profit’s raised during Saturday’s event are returned to nonprofit groups in the community in the form of grants. According to Mohammed, approximately $9,000 were awarded in grants last year alone.

“All profits raised during the event remain in the community,” he affirmed.

Vendors from all over New England sold a variety of products such as jewelry, handbags, drawings, and pottery.

Entertainment was also plentiful throughout the day with singers and groups performing at various time slots during Saturday’s event.

It even had some looking ahead to next year’s Strawberry Festival.

“I regret not coming during earlier years,” Michajlov mentioned. “It looks like this will be an event I’ll have to mark down on my calendar for 2013.”