Thorsby welcomes hundreds to first strawberry festival

Published 4:19 pm Monday, April 11, 2022

By Carey Reeder | Staff Writer

The first Strawberry Festival in Chilton County took place on April 9 at Richard H. Wood Memorial Park in Thorsby. Hundreds of patrons poured into the park to see the vendors, who has the best strawberry delicacies and have a sweet time celebrating one of Chilton County’s most important resources. The Chilton County Industrial Development Authority were thrilled with the turnout and how the event went.

“I thought it went great, I’m looking forward to next year, Thorsby is looking forward to next year and they’re excited about it. We had people from all different cities around come to the festival,” Allen Caton, member of the IDA Board, said. “I want to thank Whitney Barlow who gave her own personal time to make this thing the success it was. She did a fantastic job.”

The festival kicked off at 10 a.m. and featured numerous food trucks, vendors and fun strawberry-themed activities. A brightly painted wooden photo frame was set up by the entrance to get families and friends into the strawberry spirit.

From there, strawberry enthusiasts got the chance to see the best strawberry art in the county with the children’s and adult’s art contest entries on display.

The best of strawberry jam, sweet dessert and savory dish were crowned at the festival. Chilton County High School Principal Ron Pinson and 19th Judicial Circuit Chief Deputy Attorney CJ Robinson both participated in the strawberry shortcake eating contest among others.

All five of the strawberry queens, Starr Woods, Anna Lewellen, Harper Cleckley, Macie Lovelady and Ellie Clark, were in attendance as well.

“It was a wonderful turnout, and we’re growers so we brought everything that we had ready to pick,” Taylor Hatchett of Boozer Farms said. “It has been a great crowd, it’s certainly greater than I expected.”

Hatchett, like many of the local growers in attendance, saw their goods fly out of stock at the festival. Hatchett and Boozer Farms brought baked goods, fresh strawberries and T-shirts to sell and were sold out of everything by 11:45 a.m.

Unpredictable to virtually anyone, the weather in Chilton County has been up and down the last month. This made the ripening process not as smooth as the farmers would like and their yields were a tad low for this time in the spring.

“From a local strawberry prospective, another week or so into April would be more ideal because sometimes now we would have lots of berries but it depends on the weather, and in Alabama, the only thing you can count on is you cannot count on the weather,” Hatchett said. “We’ve had warm spells, and back to cold, and then rain so that all slows down the ripening and development.”

The Chilton County IDA were expecting the yields to be a bit low this time of year after the weather going into the festival. The IDA announced that next year’s festival will take place on April 22, 2023 to hopefully combat any unexpected colder weather and have higher yields of delicious Chilton County strawberries for everyone to purchase.

Other vendors at the event included Ascension St. Vincent’s Chilton who were giving out free blood pressure screenings, and local boutiques selling their jewelry and clothing. An ATM was available on sight at the park for anyone needing to withdraw funds.

The Jemison FFA team had some of their animals on display including four chickens, a horse, a donkey and a few baby goats.

An aerial circus team performed at 11:15 a.m. and 2 p.m. in full pirate regalia while spinning on a hanging ring putting on a show while everyone enjoyed the sights and sounds of the festival.

A stage was set up in the middle of the festival and music acts performed throughout the day including the choir from Daniel Pratt Elementary School. Directed by Devan Stewart, the students performed a ride through America’s history singing songs from various past decades.

With a massive turnout, the first year of the strawberry festival will not be the last.

“I think you can certainly see today the needs and desire from people in the community to have (the festival),” Hatchett said. “It was a great event, and we’re thrilled to have been here for it.”