Hot wings, hot rods amid cool temps at Fort Mill Strawberry Festival
This year’s S.C. Strawberry Festival is sure to be the sweetest thing in Fort Mill May 4-5 as the town hosts live music acts, arts and crafts vendors, local cuisine, kids’ games, high-stakes eating contests and even a pig race at Walter Elisha Park.
Fort Mill’s signature spring event features pick-your-own strawberries, a movie under the stars, professional wrestling, a beauty pageant and a grand finale fireworks show. More than 50,000 people are expected to attend the festival, now in its ninth year, which boasts a wide range of activities for all ages.
“We think it’s the sweetest event of the year in the Carolinas,” said Caroline Hasty, the events and media coordinator for the Town of Fort Mill.
The festival is centered on strawberries grown in the fields of Springs Farm in Fort Mill. The mission is to bring together the residents and businesses of the fast-growing town as well as promote economic development and Fort Mill pride.
Lisa McCarley, a Fort Mill town councilwoman, said she likes visiting with citizens and businesses at the sprawling booth section of the festival and of course supports the food vendors, “eating strawberry everything,” she said.
“I describe it as a local festival with a lot of good times, great music, wonderful food and a place to really kick off the produce season for local farm-to-table foods,” she said.
The dates of the Strawberry Festival weekend have long been plugged into the calendar of Jessica Ulery’s cellphone. The 34-year-old Indian Land woman doesn’t want to miss the family-focused festival.
“It’s a nice place to go, hangout with the family, see bands and eat good food,” said Ulery, who attends with her husband and son.
Last year, she said, she enjoyed a brisket sandwich from a barbecue vendor and fried strawberries for dessert from a funnel cake booth.
“They’re on a skewer and even have powdered sugar on the outside,” she said. “Amazing!”
All of the 38 expected food vendors are required to sell at least one item made from Springs’ homegrown strawberries.
Ulery’s 9-year-old son, William, enjoyed the various children’s rides – its $15 for the unlimited rides wristband – and especially liked the car show for a unique Camaro that resembled the autobot Bumblebee, a Transformers superhero.
“It was painted yellow and black and under the hood it looked like Bumblebee,” she said. “He thought it was so cool.”
The car show, hosted by the Dixieland Cruisers from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 5, showcases street rods, classics and hot rods older than 1988, with awards for the top 30, best car, best truck and queen’s choice. The entry fee is $20 as proceeds benefit two local organizations.
Wrestling for a Reason is another favorite for kids, bringing the thrill of professional wrestling to Fort Mill with a number of exhibitions on Friday and Saturday. Among the stars are Teddy Long, known as “The Playa,” a 2017 WWE Hall of Fame inductee, the “Boogie Woogie Man” Jimmy Valiant, and the Rock N Roll Express team of Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson. Donations benefit the American Cancer Society.
Geared to the young, the Vibrant Wings Butterfly exhibit features more than 1,000 free-flying butterflies. Sure to be a hit, guests walk through the exhibit and get the opportunity to see butterflies up close.
The ice cream, strawberry shortcake and hottest wing eating contests will take place on Saturday afternoon in the Family Trust Family Fun zone. The wings featuring sauce made with the famed Carolina Reaper pepper — the world's hottest — from Fort Mill-based Puckerbutt Pepper Co. The mascots of the Charlotte Knights and Carolina Panthers will also be on hand at designated times as well as Dakota, an interactive dinosaur.
Pig races are an annual favorite and four are set for Saturday to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The four-legged contestants are born and raised in Fort Mill and trained by Nation Ford High School’s Future Farmers of America students. Spectators line the fenced-in track to cheer on their favorite pig.
The festival kicks off with a week of activities leading up to the two-day festival on North White Street in Fort Mill.
Under the direction of Beth Vanderwalker, the Strawberry Festival Pageant was held April 28 at Fort Mill High School. Participants were judged on their performance in the interview, fun fashion and evening gown categories. There are three divisions: Teen ages 14 to 18, Miss ages 19 to 30, and Ms. for women who are over the age of 21.
Strawberries and a Movie, formally known as Pick N Flick, is back this year with more family fun starting at 6 p.m. on May 2, at the Field Trial Barn. After picking your own strawberries, families can enjoy cow train rides and food from local vendors. The movie “How to Train Your Dragon” will begin at dusk.
S.C. Strawberry Festival Rules
- No pets (except service animals with its license)
- No outside food and beverage; no coolers
- No bicycles
- No firearms
- Children under age 12 must be accompanied by an adult
- Only approved vendors are permitted to sell or solicit at the festival
- Offensive, disruptive or disorderly conduct will not be tolerated
Beer will be served. You must be at least 21 years of age with a wristband to be served.
- Source: Town of Fort Mill