By ANGELA HILL
Calling all strawberry fans: bring your appetite and spending money to Uptown Stuart Saturday for the 14th Annual Strawberry Festival.
Each year, approximately 2,500 people come out to enjoy strawberry shortcake and homemade strawberry ice cream, children’s activities, music, food, and shopping.
The day kicks off with the Strawberry Festival 5K, which begins near Stuart DeHart Park at 8:30 a.m. With a $25 registration fee, the 5K is now in its fourth year. Clark Gas & Oil and Blue Ridge Bank have sponsored the event each year.
Rodney Holt, former vice president of the board of directors for Stuart Parks and Recreation, and now director of the Strawberry Festival 5K, explained that each year, race proceeds go to area outdoor initiatives.
The first two years, money went to extend the Mayo River Rail Trail, which begins off Commerce Street. Last year’s race proceeds helped fund new equipment at the children’s play area at DeHart Park in Stuart. This year, that effort will continue, with an eye toward installing fencing, more equipment and picnic tables at the play area — a project that will also serve as the Eagle Scout project for an area Boy Scout.
Each year, nearly 75 runners and walkers join in the 5K. Participants may register up through 8 a.m. on race day. The winner for the past two years is Patrick County Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Holt.
Plus, Saturday is the opening day for the swimming pool at DeHart Park in Stuart Rodney Holt said. He added that the weather forecast calls for a partially cloudy day as warm as the 80s.
“It’s a perfect day to spend the entire day in Stuart. You can park at the park and walk to the festival,” Holt said.
The Strawberry Festival starts at 10 a.m., featuring a day’s lineup of music. The First Christian Church Choir kicks off the day at 10 a.m. Marcie Horne is scheduled to perform at 11 a.m., followed by The Phipps at noon, and Phonic 45 at 2 p.m.
Up through the festival’s end at 4 p.m., the younger set will find plenty of entertainment as well, including inflatables and a mini-golf course from Outdoor Entertainment, and pony rides.
Of course, fresh strawberries — and delectable treats made from fresh strawberries — headline the event. The strawberries sold at the festival are from Christie Mabe Rogers’ operation Mabe Strawberries. Stuart United Methodist Church will sell strawberry shortcake, and Clark Gas & Oil will sell home-made, tractor-powered strawberry ice cream.
Main Street will be bustling with vendors offering everything from wood crafts to clothing to jewelry; plus informational tables set up by various organizations such as the newly formed Stuart Lion’s Club. Food vendors will offer everything from kettle corn to fish, barbecue, chicken, ribs, sausages, and funnel cakes.
Festival-goers may park in the former Alexander’s Grocery Store lot just off Main Street, Stuart Baptist Church, and after noon at the BB&T Bank at the top of Main Street in Stuart.
Admission to the festival is free. There are charges for some of the children’s activities.