TROY — Visitors flocked to the 2017 Troy Strawberry Festival under near-perfect skies this weekend and organizers couldn’t be happier.
The festival ended Sunday, again with strong crowds after seeing record-breaking attendance on Saturday, according to Corie Schweser, festival manager.
Schweser said food booths were running out of supplies as early as 1-2 p.m. Sunday. The infamous strawberry doughnuts, a fundraiser for the Troy High School marching band, ran out around 4 p.m. she said, with a long line of people still waiting.
Schweser said arts and crafts vendors were equally pleased. She said she had a new arts and crafts person this year who sold out the first day.
“They were just thrilled,” Schweser said. “That’s a great problem.
“Even my ATMs ran out of money,” she said.
Other organizers agree.
“After two years of planning … to see everything come together without a hitch,” TSF General Chairman Matt Watkins said. “I’m very particular, so seeing everything go off as it did will help me sleep very well tonight.”
Watkins said he doesn’t remember a year when the festival did not see at least one day of rain during the three total days of events, but was glad it came on his watch.
It was one of several firsts, Watkins said.
There also was a first when DeWayne Williams proposed to festival chairperson Amanda Gibson on stage during Friday night events — she said yes.
The Troy Post Office also had its first stamp and custom cancellation celebrating the city’s annual festival, according to Watkins.
With his “Silver Screen Berries” theme, Watkins said he believes it also was unique that it is the 40th anniversary of “Star Wars,” and there have been 40 years of a Strawberry Festivals.
“It was fun to share that with the Strawberry Festival and it went right along with the theme,” he said.
Organizers reminded visitors of the 2017 theme as much as possible, Watkins said.
“We purposely put a lot of recognizable movie-themed items out and kept movie-themed songs going to keep the theme going even if was just the background music,” he said. “We wanted people to feel like they were at a movie premiere.”
Watkins said having his family at his side throughout his time as chair was more than he could have hoped for.
“My family never volunteered for anything, and they were right there with me. There should have been six red jackets up there, not just me, because they shouldered just as much work as me,” he said. “Just seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces made it all worth it.”
The 2017 Troy Strawberry Festival Queen Sierra Simon, who reigned over the festival with her court, including first attendant Natalie Rocke and the second attendant Randi Frazier, said she also enjoyed the children’s events.
“I definitely enjoyed seeing all the kids and being part of all the events,” said Simon, who just graduated from Troy High School. “I really loved the Diaper Derby today, it was adorable, and the Little Miss and Mr. Strawberry Pageant.”
Simon, who will attend Cleveland State University in the fall, attended all the Sunday events, including the derby, 10K, and sang the national anthem twice, along with her court.
“It was really fun to meet a lot of different personalities and see all the behind-the-scenes work and seeing it all get put together,” Simon said. “And it all turned out amazing.”
But meeting a World War II survivor of Pearl Harbor at the Troy Senior Citizens Center was the topping on her strawberry shortcake, she said.
“That probably made my day,” said Simon, who said she and her court were able to sample many of the offerings on the levee and downtown throughout the weekend.
Simon said she now has lifelong friends in Rocke and Frazier, who all donned handmade sunglasses throughout the festival.
“We have become so close and it is awesome,” Simon said. “We are excited to see each other again because we will attend multiple festivals yet this year together.
“This is one of he best experiences I’ve had in my life so far,” she said.
Watkins said it was a great experience for him as well, and he plans to stay involved with the festival — in a lesser role.
“Part of the marks of a good general chair is that they know when it’s time to step back and let others rise to the occasion. After 17 years, I think it’s time,” Watkins said. “But like other chairs of the past, we come back every single year to help and support the festival, and I’m not going anywhere.”
Watkins’ offered advice for 2018 chair Eric Roetter, whom Watkins said he has known since elementary school.
“Relax and breath it in and enjoy the moment. Because it’s gone in a flash,” he said. “It would be easy to miss this once in a lifetime feeling if you think about it too much.”
Schweser said she, along with the entire festival crew, can’t thank all of the people who helped them through yet another successful event enough.
“I love this community and I am so proud to get to manage this festival,” Schweser said. “It makes us unique and we are bringing people into the living room of our community. On behalf of the festival and volunteers, I thank everyone.”
Reach Melody Vallieu at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (937) 552-2131