S.C. Strawberry Festival celebrates ninth year
The sweetest festival turns nine this year.
The Town of Fort Mill has long held an annual spring festival, but the S.C. Strawberry Festival is relatively young at heart.
The mission of a springtime Fort Mill festival has always been community, with Fest-i-fun lasting a quarter of a century until 2007. That year, on the eve of the Saturday event, a fire at a downtown pizza shop forced its cancellation.
Fest-i-Fun was privately run, with support from then-Mayor Charles Powers. Powers even presented then-President Bill Clinton a framed Fest-i-Fun poster when Clinton stayed overnight in Fort Mill in 1994. After Powers’ tenure as mayor, Fort Mill turned in 2008 to a strictly town-sponsored festival, named Springfest.
In a move to generate wider appeal while still holding onto local tradition, town officials introduced the S.C. Strawberry Festival in 2010. It was a success from the start, attracting tens of thousands of people.
“When you’re at the Strawberry Festival, you’ll know you’re at the Strawberry Festival,” said Caroline Hasty, the events and media coordinator for the Town of Fort Mill.
From signage and mascot to crafts and strawberries on every menu board, Hasty intends for the farm to come to Walter Elisha Park.
Then and now, local strawberries grown at Springs Farm on Springfield Parkway are a big seller and the Peach Stand has become iconic to Fort Mill.
Ron Edwards, general manager of Springs Farms and the Peach Stand, remembers getting asked to a meeting where the S.C. Strawberry Festival was first presented.
“I remember thinking that it’s pretty neat for a festival to spring from what we do,” said Edwards, a long-time Fort Mill resident who manages the farm’s 18 acres of strawberry plants.
Springs has two varieties of strawberries – Albion and Camarosa, which are planted in the fall. The farm is a popular destination for school fieldtrips and families looking to enjoy sweet fruit and fresh air.
Edwards likes that the community has taken ownership of the Springs’ strawberry crop and takes to heart if the weather negatively affects the crop.
“People pull for you to have a great year,” said Edwards, who is managing a great crop. “They like our strawberries and pick them every year.”
From the start, the Strawberry Festival had eating contests. In 2011, Berry B. Good debuted as the festival mascot.
Edwards enjoys sampling the wide range of vendor foods that are made from his strawberries, especially deep-fried strawberries that are made like funnel cake and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
State Rep. Raye Felder puts her re-election on the back burner and becomes a volunteer on the day of the festival that brings together her constituency.
She helps with the car show, a project dear to her husband. Like Edwards, she makes sure to support the food vendors.
“Where else can you get a pork chop sandwich, strawberry lemonade and shortcake?” she asked.
She enjoys catching up with friends, seeing the talent musicians, and watching the children enjoy all the activities.
“The festival is the reminder that spring is here and summer on the close horizon,” Felder said. “Whether you have lived here a short time or a lifetime, Fort Mill feels like home and the festival is a huge welcome home party.”