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Strawberry Fest offers free fun at annual event

By Staff | Mar 15, 2009

Celebrating its fourteenth year, the Diplomat Wesleyan Church’s Strawberry Festival brought people out into the warm sunshine to enjoy the free event.
The weather was a big departure from last year, when the festival was mired with strong winds, cool temperatures and overcast skies.
Church Pastor Rick Stephens said last year’s conditions were “fierce”, which made this year’s weather that much more enjoyable.
“This is one of the best days we’ve had,” he said. “Last year they had to constantly retie the tents. It was real windy.”
With the weather squared away, church volunteers went about the business of creating a warm, family-friendly atmosphere with food, games and of course, strawberries.
Everything was cost-effective. A breakfast of pancakes, fresh strawberries, sausage and coffee was sold for $3, while bundles of the delicious berries were being sold for only $2.50. All of the berries were grown locally, on a farm in Arcadia.
Still, even with the low prices local ties, church officials were considering lowering the cost of the strawberries before noon because they were not selling very quickly.
Volunteers Judy and Andy Andrews, originally from Indianapolis, said last year’s strawberries were sold out long before noon, which made this year’s slow sales a bit odd.
“This time last year we were completely sold out. It’s probably the economy, but there’s a lot happening this weekend,” Judy said. “There’s the Shrimp Fest on Fort Myers Beach, the Oktoberfest … but these are beautiful strawberries. We haven’t had to throw one away.”
Andy Andrews was quick to point out that the Strawberry Festival was free, and the food affordable, giving them a leg up on the other festivals.
That approach to event has endeared the festival to the community over the years, according to Pastor Stephens.
When Stephens wasn’t busy greeting festival goers, he was busy playing a guitar on stage, keeping the music going while the blue grass band took a breather.
“The church is here to serve the community, not the other way around,” he said. “We really make no money from this, just enough to cover our expenses. But it gives us an opportunity to provide something for the kids, and for the big kids too.”