Berry time: Strawberry Festival returns – despite pandemic – for 70th year

June 2021 Posted in Arts, Culture & History, Community, Food & Drink

By Melissa Wagoner

Strawberries have grown wild in Oregon for millennia and were picked in abundance by Indigenous peoples. But even cultivated strawberries have a long history, having been carefully transported, via the Oregon Trail, by Quaker nurseryman Henderson Luelling in 1846.

“Silverton has a long history as an agricultural center and strawberries, while not as prolific now as in the past, represents that heritage,” historian Gus Frederick said of the berry’s local role. “The Silverton Hills was once a major local producer of strawberries, which employed many folks.”

They also inspired a much-loved Silverton tradition – the Silverton Hills Strawberry Festival – held for the first time in 1951 inside the Silverton Hills Grange Hall, then moved in the 1990s to Coolidge- McClaine Park where it’s still held today.

“Last year, of course, it was canceled,” Frederick noted. Adding that, although that means the festival is technically only

in its sixty-ninth year, festival organizers – the Silverton Rotary Club and the Homer Davenport Festival Committee – are still claiming all 70 years.

“Due to costs, we have reluctantly decided to raise the cost from $6 to $7,” Frederick said. Adding that, although there will
be no craft booths directly associated with the festival this year, organizers are encouraging attendees to check out the local Oregon Crafters Market on Water Street.

“We are hoping to have some entertainment as well in the form of strolling clowns and musicians,” Frederick continued. “All that said, we will go ‘Full Festival,’ at least in regards to strawberries, like 2019.”

Which means the festival will be held, per tradition, on Father’s Day (this year June 20) from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and will focus on the main event – the strawberry shortcake dessert.

“While our berries are not from the Silverton Hills, they are local,” Frederick noted in an attempt to quash the “persistent myth” that the festival’s berries hail from afar.

“One year in the 1990s there were no local berries available, and the festival was forced to get ‘alien’ berries from California,” Fredrick admitted. Pointing out that, since that fateful year, organizers have worked hard to procure only truly local berries – purchased from Willamette Valley Pie Company – since 2013.

Priced at $7 each for those over age two and under 80, the desserts are free for everyone else – another fun quirk of this Silverton tradition that Frederick thinks no one should miss.

“Grab your strawberry shortcake, and eat in the park!” he said.

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70th Annual Silverton Hills Strawberry Festival

Coolidge-McClaine Park, Silverton

Father’s Day – June 20, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Strawberry Shortcake $7 each Free those under 2 or over 80 www.homerdavenport.com

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