I know summer has officially arrived when …
- “U-pick Strawberries” signs appear up and down the road
- I hoard jars so I can make enough jam to last until next June
- My family begs me to make strawberry shortcake
- The volunteer fire department erects the Augusta Strawberry Festival sign over the road
- The 4-H club discusses parade float ideas
- My son collects 62 plastic bags to hold all the candy he thinks he’ll get during the parade
- Volunteers ask for donations for the Strawberry Festival which supports the fire department
Freshly baked and ready to be delivered.
Something occurred to me while I was baking these sweet little things … something I hadn’t thought about in years and years. It was a memory — almost a sensory recall — of being in the kitchen at “the grove” where the festival takes place.
At that time, my grandpa was the fire chief. I was very young, probably five or six, and my mom was making sloppy Joes with the donated hamburger, ketchup, onions and peppers. There were pies on the shelves and people continued to walk in with donations of shortcakes and condiments and buns.
There were a few kids my age there, too. We had the run of the empty festival grounds while our parents prepared for the annual VFD fundraiser. Earlier in the week ladies from all over our rural township congregated at the pavilion with their paring knives to stem strawberries. Hundreds of bowls of shortcake would be served over the next couple of days.
What I remembered first, in this reverie of days gone by, was the ice cream cooler.
It was a big old chest freezer with lots of little doors on top for scooping out fresh vanilla. I’m absolutely positive it was about as far from “energy-star compliant” as anything could be. I was also fascinated by the tubs of ice for storing cans of pop. The Strawberry Festival was the only time — if we were lucky — that my mom allowed us to enjoy a can. Sunkist was my favorite.
The bingo tent had a distinct smell … musty canvas mixed with fresh sawdust. And I remember being fascinated by the dunking machine. A parade kicked off the weekend events and every year we sat in grandma’s front yard and watched it go by.
Times have changed. Thankfully the Strawberry Festival isn’t one of them. Sure, things are done a little differently now … but there’s still a parade, you can still order a bowl of strawberry shortcake or strawberries and ice cream or pie a la mode. The dunk tank still works, the dime toss still has kids everywhere searching for spare change.
And now, instead of watching the donations arrive at the grove I’m making deliveries myself. And just like I used to do, my kids are now giddy as soon as they see the festival banner flapping between poles over the road.
How sweet it is!
P.S. To make shortcakes, I follow the simple recipe on the back of the Jiffy box. I love this version! And we sprinkle them with sugar just before baking.
Reposted from June 10, 2011