Afton is ripe for new event
May came and went, but one thing was noticeably absent - Afton May Fair.
The 20-year event discontinued this year after many years of poor weather conditions.
"May Fair often had rainy, difficult weather," said Lisa Damon, a member of the Afton Area Business Association (AABA), which sponsored the event.
"It was just so treacherous," sair Raenette Manderfeld-Pung, of AABA.
In lieu of May Fair, AABA will be partnering with Memorial Lutheran Church, in Afton, to sponsor the Afton Strawberry Festival June 22-23.
"It's a great, fresh opportunity," Manderfeld-Pung said.
Strawberry Festival will take place in Afton's Town Square Park and throughout the city as well as at Memorial Lutheran Church.
Old and new traditions
Afton Strawberry Festival started 131 years ago when Memorial Lutheran Church first started hosting a community dinner, complete with "all you can eat fresh strawberries."
"There's such a great history of strawberries in the St. Croix Valley," Damon said.
Damon said having the AABA partner with Memorial Lutheran Church for this year's event seemed like the perfect opportunity to expand the festival in order to replace May Fair.
"It seemed like a great opportunity to have more of a larger communitywide event," she said. "We thought this would be a nice shift to emphasize the strawberries. We wanted to take some of the great components of May Fair and enhance those."
Some of May Fair's old favorites that will be returning at Strawberry Festival include the art, business and food vendors, the children's train ride and live music.
Strawberry Festival will include a total of 85 vendors, including homemade furniture, jewelry, paintings, home remodelers, health services, gluten free food and Mediterranean cuisine.
In addition to the tried and true favorites from May Fairs past, this year's Strawberry Festival will also have a variety of new offerings including: a second-hand flea market, an art exhibit by Afton-Lakeland Elementary sixth graders, pony rides, children's crafts and activities, a "make and take" painted wine glass activity for adults, the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, meet and greet with city officials, mobile pet grooming, a strawberry shortcake eating contest and a beer garden, complete with strawberry margaritas.
Strawberry Festival will also include the announcement of the Lower St. Croix Valley Foundation grant recipients.
Additionally, Strawberry Festival will announce the winner of an art contest, sponsored by Afton-Lakeland Elementary, where a student's artwork, depicting Strawberry Festival, will be turned into a stamp by the Afton Post Office.
A number of activities will also be at Memorial Lutheran Church including music, children's activities, a bake sale and the annual dinner.
"There's a lot of new activities, new vendors, a lot of things for families young and old," Damon said. "The variety is going to be key because there's something for everyone."
Both Damon and Manderfeld-Pung are hoping for a good turnout at the new event.
"Everything is set up for success," Manderfeld-Pung said. "We brought in a great frame for the event."
Manderfeld-Pung and Damon said they think this year's Strawberry Festival will be the beginning of a great tradition for the future.
"This is the place to be that weekend," Damon said. "Everything is bigger and better."
Afton Strawberry Festival will be June 22 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and June 23 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit www.aftonstrawberryfestival.com for a full schedule of events.