TERRE HAUTE —
Biscuits, strawberries, ice cream and whipped toppings filled the mouths and teased the taste buds of thousands of patrons at the 26th annual Strawberry Fest hosted by the First Congregational Church in downtown Terre Haute on Thursday.
“I come here for the strawberries,” said Mia Anderson, a 4-year-old who has attended “ever since she was born,” accompanied by her older sister and grandmother.
The Rev. Dawn Carlson of the First Congregation Church said Strawberry Fest is the largest downtown Terre Haute single-day event.
“I’m proud to show what a downtown event can be,” Carlson said. “People love coming to Strawberry Fest to kick off the summer.”
Indeed they do. With the 2013 Strawberry Fest serving 10,500 portions of shortcake, the goal this year was to reach 11,000 servings, which they “have never hit,” she said. They will not know the sum of this year’s event for another couple of weeks.
Church members and the community made up the 232 volunteers eager to serve the mass of hungry customers by starting at 7:30 a.m. to prepare the food.
“We have 7,000 pounds of strawberries, 700 gallons of ice cream, 10,000 pounds of biscuits and 700 pounds of whipped toppings,” said Scott Isles, a board member of the church. He also is the owner of B & B Foods – which has been supplying Strawberry Fest ever since it started.
Despite the inflation in recent years, Carlson said they have not changed the price for about 15 years. Attendees paid $1 for ice cream and up to $5 for all four ingredients.
Carlson said she owes the success of the event to the volunteers willing to give up their day to serve.
“I help collect ingredients,” said Logan Fenimore, a first-year volunteer serving as a runner. “I thought it would be a lot of fun to be out here with everyone and serve my community.”
Some establishments that sent volunteers are Terre Haute South Vigo High School, Hamilton Center, Barnes & Noble, Terre Haute North Vigo High School and Union Hospital;.
“We would be lost without volunteers,” Carlson said. “We couldn’t have this event without them.”
Kathy Anderson, a fourth-year patron, said the quality of the food is great and the event supports the church, so she’ll “be back next year, for sure.”
Aside from strawberries, there were live performances from Dixieland, Women of Erin and The Macdaddys, as well as merchandise such as a cookbook, strawberry T-shirts and totes. A horse carriage ride provided by P&T Carriage Rides gave passengers a lift around the block during the event.
The food, laughs and overall atmosphere has Carlson eager to continue on to her 12th year of involvement — and the festival’s 27th.
“We are certainly blessed,” she added.