Strawberry Festival organizers look to 2021

The Pasadena Strawberry Festival will have to wait a little longer.

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The Pasadena Strawberry Festival

The 47-year old Pasadena tradition is held each year at the Pasadena Fairgrounds at 7603 Red Bluff Road, Pasadena

Major attraction: The ‘World’s Largest Strawberry Shortcake’; in 2019, the cake measured 1,500-square-feet and involved 1,500strawberries and 750 sheet cakes.

Website: https://strawberryfest.org/

Contact information: (281) 991-9500

The 47-year Pasadena tradition was originally set for May, and then postponed for July, but due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19, event organizers are now looking past 2020.

Expected to regroup in September, the festival committee will consider fundraising options as it maps out the next few months in preparation for a 2021 return, according Murline Staley, executive director of the festival.

“We’ll start looking forward to next year and calling it our ‘new year,’” Staley said.

The Strawberry Festival, which includes a carnival, family-friendly games and activities and food and craft vendors from all over the state, raises money for student scholarships throughout the region.

In 2019, the festival brought in $40,000, and losing an entire year has been a major setback to the non-profit’s goal, Staley said.

“We are not being able to give the scholarship amount we’re used to giving,” she said. “We are pretty devasted.”

The non-profit recently held a successful drive-through cake sale, a modification of one of the festival’s biggest draws, its massive strawberry shortcake.

According to Staley, that event brought in $10,000 and organizers are planning to hold a second cake sale in the fall. In addition, festival organizers are offering event merchandise for sale on its Facebook page.

The pandemic has been especially hard for non-profits, Staley said.

“We’re in the learning process of what we can do and how we can continue (fundraising),” she said.

The Strawberry Festival, which draws thousands of visitors each year, relies on major sponsors and hundreds of volunteers, and despite the setback, those resources remain on board, according to Staley.

“They have been understanding, they know what’s going on,” she said. “Our sponsors and volunteers were all a little heartbroken. This festival involves so many people. We have vendors that do it for a living and vendors that do it strictly for the fun and as hobby.”

Charles Shelley and his wife, Laura, have been festival volunteers for the last three years and the 2020 cancellation was a disappointment.

“We were really looking forward to the things we do (as volunteers),” Shelley said. “My wife really wanted to be part of the ‘world’s largest strawberry shortcake’.”

Whether its helping to put together the Haunted House or working as a member of the soundstage and entertainment crew, Shelley, a 50-year old self-employed plumber, said enjoyed the break from routine and the gratification of putting something together and watching it succeed.

The biggest loss, Shelley said, is the funding it provides.

“This (pandemic) has done damage to a lot of organizations,” he said. “This isn’t about the adults, its for the kids, for their education and it took a lot of money away from that. We have to the make the best of it.”

For many of the event organizers, participants and volunteers, the Strawberry Festival is a labor of love, Staley said, and while the enthusiasm hasn’t waned, it has been temporarily sidelined.

“I’m thrilled we have the volunteer base we do because their volunteering with their hearts,” she said. “They (want to) give back and serve the community and during this time, that’s what it’s all about, helping each other.”

For now, festival organizers are learning how to think outside the box. Staley points to the Houston Renaissance Festival, which is scheduled to begin in September.

“They’re being creative, and that’s what I think it’s all about,” she said. “This is a ‘for now normal’ and we have to change things. The number one thing is the safety of our guests, our volunteers and festival staff. How do we do that in these uncertain times, but then again, how do we not do it? Because so many people are wanting to get out to have a good time and getting some fresh air. It’s all about the planning.”

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