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June 15, 2012

Berry, berry good: The sweet taste of summertime

TERRE HAUTE — Inside the First Congregational Church on Ohio Street, the Rev. Dawn Carlson organized volunteers on Thursday as streams of people carried out orders full of strawberry shortcake, ice cream and whipped cream.

“We might have some who pick up 100 orders,” Carlson said of the regular customers who patronize the church’s annual fund-raiser.

Now in its 24th year, the Downtown Strawberry Festival draws thousands of customers to the historic church from 10 a.m. through 8 p.m. It also draws about 150 volunteers from community groups. In addition to serving the needs of its 178-year-old congregation, the 109-year-old church also hosts organizations ranging in function from Meals on Wheels to Alcoholics Anonymous.

“We did a census once, and we figured this building serves more than 10,000 people a year,” Carlson said.

In her third year as senior minister, Carlson spent three as associate minister there, steeping herself in the tradition which brings in food by the truckload, enough to produce 10,000 servings of berry concoctions.

Thumbing through this year’s receipts, Carlson estimated the group had about 5,300 pounds of strawberries, 489 gallons of ice cream and 650 pounds of whipped topping ready to go Thursday.

“We figure whatever it takes to make 10,000 servings,” she said.

Elaine Lee has been a member of the congregation for 10 years, but a Strawberry Festival volunteer for 11.

“Even before I became a member,” she said while handing out supplies to volunteers.

The event not only supports the church’s outreach programs, it also provides good, clean, affordable fun for families in town, she said.

Live music was provided by a Dixieland jazz ensemble early in the day, followed by the Women of Erin and Crosswinds in the evening.

Joshua Rowley brought his two sons, Simon, 2 and Nolan, 4, for some plates full of sweetness.

“This is my first time,” he said, noting his kids liked the ice cream and he the strawberry shortcake.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or

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