Smiles blossom at strawberry festival

Jul 29, 2013

Boys at festival enjoying smoothies

Whether a pancake breakfast or a Christmas celebration, Kiwanis-hosted events bring together members of communities in a way that’s often integral to the club’s identity. The Newark Strawberry Festival is no exception to this trend.

When the festival was initiated 30 years ago by a downtown improvement organization seeking to bring more people into the area, the Newark, Ohio, Kiwanis Club was charged with concocting the strawberry shortcakes. But within a few years, the organization disbanded, and the Kiwanians stepped forward to fill the vacancy. The club now holds the daunting tasks of soliciting food concessions and vendors, contracting with an amusement rides company, arranging utility hook ups, signing up entertainment groups and conducting a pageant to crown a Miss Strawberry in four age groups.

“The club spends the whole year planning this festival,” says Strawberry Festival Chairman Bill Rauch.

This includes a last-minute push to prepare 250 flats of strawberries for the club’s famous shortcake. But the work is worth it. In spite of the threat of rain this year, more than 20,000 people turned out to eat strawberries, watch the pageants and listen to musical acts ranging from country bands to a high energy dance band.

“The strawberry shortcake is really good, and that undoubtedly pulls a lot of people,” Rauch says. “For citizens in the lower income bracket, who probably couldn’t afford the expense of going to major amusement park, the festival represents a chance to have some of that kind of experience locally at a cheaper price.”

Club President Michael Harris agrees. “The craft and food vendors provide a variety of fare not often found together at local establishments,” he says. “It’s a great venue on the square of downtown Newark. Our pageant attracts numerous children with doting parents and grandparents. Finally, I think everyone agrees the proceeds help support a great cause.”

The event draws a lot of children, and it also serves to benefit them.

“Since the 1920s, our club and a local women’s service organization have shared in the support of Camp O’Bannon, which was founded in 1913,” says Rauch.“These are kids, who come from low income families, otherwise would probably never have the opportunity to participate in a camping enrichment program. The strawberry festival is our major fundraiser to support of the camp.”  –Courtney Meyer

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