SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — Even rain couldn’t keep a crowd of people away from sampling strawberry-smothered goodies Saturday afternoon at the 36th annual Strawberry Festival.
Adorned in rain-resistant gear, Mainers young and old flooded the festival to show their community spirit and feed their sweet teeth for the day.
Sheltered by a set of white tents, 17-year-old Lola Johnson scooped a hefty serving of whipped cream onto overflowing bowls of shortcake.
“It’s just a lot of fun,” said Johnson, a Marshwood High School senior. “It’s great to see everyone come together to support the community.”
Johnson, who had volunteered to serve the featured treat for the fourth year in a row, stood among more than 12 people as they passed the desserts down an assembly line. Each volunteer added a component to the treat. Aside from being a four-year-veteran of the berry festival, Johnson said she has had practice serving dishes while working at Kittery Estates nursing home.
“This is nothing,” she said with a smile.
Across from Johnson were two more student volunteers, a brother and sister who worked side-by-side to top off dishes of shortcake.
Anna Lietz, 16, came across the volunteer position through Marshwood’s Interact Club. Lietz, a Berwick resident, said she was looking for a way to get involved with her community.
“It’s nice to be helping,” she said as she scooped a heap of strawberries onto a serving of shortcake. “That’s why I dragged my brother along!”
Eighteen-year-old Andrew Lietz stood next to his sister, garnishing the dish with a cloud of whipped cream. Lietz said he is home for the summer after studying at the University of Maine in Orono and was looking for something to do.
“I thought it would be a fun thing to do now that I’m back from college,” he said, noting that it was his first year volunteering at the festival.
According to Khayyam Mohammed, publicity coordinator for the daylong event, feeding attendees takes pounds upon pounds of ingredients.
As he tallied up the amount of buckets that had already been used by 11 a.m., Mohammed said the festival’s organizers ordered a whopping 2,000 lbs. of berries from California. But the shortcake and other strawberry covered treats would not be complete without 44 five-gallon drums of whipped cream, 330 dozen shortcakes and 90 cheesecakes.
Mohammed said attendees could feel happy about more than eating delicious desserts, however, as proceeds collected will benefit an array of area nonprofit organizations and all of the schools in the district. Last year, the festival brought in around $13,000.
“The weather is kind of putting a damper on things this year,” said Mohammed. “Hopefully we can see numbers close to past years.”
Though strawberries were painted on the faces of children and balloons shaped like the berries were tied to wrists and strollers, there was much more to the festival than fruit.
A Beatles tribute band, a gospel group, a harmonizing collection of male singers and children’s performances featuring puppeteers took to the stage, filling the air with music as families made their way to concession stands and craft tables.
As he held an overflowing bowl of shortcake, Steve Weinert of Sanford said he comes every year to the festival. The desserts, however, are just a perk for Weinert, as he said he’s more focused on the family atmosphere and the chance to buy handmade soap.
“I’m happy to support them,” said Weinert of the vendors, some selling wares from local artisans and craftsmen.
Avery Rogers, 18, sat on the ground eating with her back to a trio of bounce houses and climbing walls crawling with children. Rogers, a Berwick resident who has lived in the town her entire life, said she can’t remember a summer where she didn’t attend the Strawberry Festival.
“It’s definitely more diverse than it was when I was little,” said Rogers, “but I think that’s what has made it grown so much. There’s something for everyone.”
Rogers, a recent graduate from Marshwood, said she plans to leave her hometown and travel to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. Rogers vowed she’d be back in time for next year’s festival.
“I wouldn’t miss it,” she said.
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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.