“Well this festival is a festival on the east end of Long Island. And it’s um held like by the Lions Club, which is like a local philanthropic organization and they raise money to give to local businesses and schools. They give it to the club scouts, the Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, homeless shelter, high school Corus, animal welfare, senior center. You know they give it to a lot of places. The Lions Club organized this festival every year and they give the money to the local businesses, groups, community and non-profit groups. It usually takes place in the middle of June, which is the peak of strawberry season. This year will be the 62nd year. It started out really small. Everything strawberry: rides, games, the strawberry queen, strawberry shortcake, strawberries and chocolate.”
Who is the strawberry queen?
“She is a local high school student and they pick her. The first queen was crowned in 1956, based on her extra curricular actives and giving back to the community, I don’t think she can be dumb either. So they have the semifinalists, a group of five girls, they wear white dresses, and it is a big deal to be crowed a queen. When they announce the winner, they give her a crown and a big scepter with a strawberry on it. And a big picture of her is in the local newspaper.”
What do you think is the significance of this festival?
“Long Island is known for its agriculture and vegetables and strawberries are the first fruit that that gets ready to be picked, the first fruit. It was just a way to build a community thing around it. Strawberries were the first ones in the middle of June. A nice way to kick of summer. It is a way to kick off summer, mark beginning of summer season. They call it ‘Long Islands original and largest strawberry festival, and charity fundraiser.'”
When did you first hear of this tradition?
“When we bought our house out there. We saw a big sign in the field, and I remember wondering what that was about, I didn’t realize they had a whole festival built around the strawberries.”
Who joins in?
“Everyone in the community. People from Long Island, people from all around. It is always packed. Four days and three nights, and they have fireworks every night. Its all ages, from babies to old people and everyone in between, families go with their kids, teenagers, and young adults. Tourists, old people.”
The Long Island Strawberry Festival marks a unique way to bring a community together around one of its most popular crops. While the informant is relatively new to the tradition and to Long Island, it seems as though this festival really brings together people from all areas and all ages. The festival represents the richness of the Long Island land and the abundance of crops that it produces every season. Every summer, the Strawberry Festival will mark the beginning of the warm summer to come and the productive season ahead.