The versatile strawberry -- red, sweet, juicy, aromatic -- is good for eating plain, over (or in) ice cream and shortcake, in a pie, in a drink, as jam, as candy, in a cake mix, dipped in chocolate -- or however you wish.
Strawberries are here, and with them, old and new festivals celebrate their arrival.
These popular festivals offer more than just berries. Crafts, yard sales, flea markets, children's activities, music, socializing with friends, the crowning of a Strawberry Princess are among the attractions. From 300 to 7,000 people attend these county festivals.
"Strawberries are popular because they're easy to pick, they're not up a ladder or in a tree, they're not thorny, you wash them off a little and just pop them in your mouth," said Kay Ripley of Baugher's Orchards in Westminster.
The wet weather this month has made strawberries ready a week early, Ripley said, adding that they should be in their prime next week. Baugher's opened its 15 acres of strawberries for people to pick their own on Wednesday.
The strawberry festival season in Carroll began Saturday, when the Pleasant Valley Community Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary held its annual strawberry social.
The biggest strawberry festival, in its eighth year, is sponsored by Messiah Lutheran Church of Berrett at the Sykesville-Freedom District Fire Company carnival grounds on Route 32.
Scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 6, the festival offers a large yard and craft sale, food, continuous entertainment and 1,700 pounds of berries.
"We spend two days picking -- people go out when they have time," said Diane Fischer, publicity chairwoman. "Four hundred to 500 pounds are sliced for shortcake, and the rest are sold fresh. We have homemade hot-milk sponge cake, made by all the ladies we can get."
Berry lovers want to get the works -- shortcake, Hoffman's ice cream, strawberries and whipped cream. Then they can check out the 75 to 100 vendors or the entertainment, ranging from music to dance and karate demonstrations to a safari party.
"We try to make it inexpensive for families, especially those with young children," Fischer said.
Also on June 6, Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church at 1372 Bachman Valley Road has a strawberry festival starting at 2 p.m. Visitors can also get chicken corn soup and baked goods and enjoy the Alesia Band.
The oldest strawberry festival in Carroll is at St. Luke's (Winter's) Lutheran Church outside New Windsor. The 213-year-old church has had strawberry festivals for more than 130 years. It runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow.
"It was the social event of the area when it began," said co-chairwoman Darthean Fox. "It stopped during World War II and then started up again. We still have 5-cent Cokes and 25-cent hot dogs. It's still a social event."
The church gets berries from Baugher's and serves them with Hoffman's ice cream. The youth group has a cake auction at 4: 30 p.m. and the William F. Myers Band plays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. First Fruits sings gospel music.
Also tomorrow, St. Mary's Lutheran Church in Silver Run has its ** strawberry festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Route 97 and Mayberry Road. This event features Sewell's berries, food, music by the Littlestown Band, a Civil War living history camp, small flea market and hourly meditations when the church bell is rung.
"The festival is to have fun, but primarily it's an outreach to the community," said the Rev. Lee Brumback. "The proceeds will benefit the Rape Crisis Center, Carroll Hospice, the Delaware-Maryland Synod Mission and a new pavilion for our church."
Four festivals are scheduled June 13, including Baugher's, whose event is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the orchard and bakery on Route 140 west of Westminster.
It offers chocolate-covered berries, berries and shortcake or ice cream and berries. Wagon rides are provided to the fields for people to pick their own. A Strawberry Princess will be crowned.
Real strawberry lovers can register by June 6 for the strawberry pie-eating contest at 1 p.m. June 13. Information: 410-848-5541.
The Sykesville Historic District Commission's strawberry festival will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. the same date at the Gate House Museum, 7283 Cooper Drive, a change in location.
The festival committee has added Civil War re-enactors, a train display, and hot dogs and lemonade to the strawberries and ice cream. String Band America returns for this 15th annual event.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church at 827 Leister's Church Road starts serving berries at 4 p.m. June 13. This festival's favorite item is the homemade turkey corn soup or turkey salad.
In downtown Taneytown, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church begins its festival at 5 p.m. June 13. The favorite here, according to Louise Miller, church secretary, is the strawberry boat.
At Linwood Brethren Church's festival, strawberry milkshakes are the specialty.
Shortcake and ice cream with berries are served from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. June 20 at at the church, 575 McKinstry's Mill Road. Sandwich platters, crafts, a white elephant table and cakewalks are included.
The last strawberry celebration of the season is one of the smallest and the second-oldest. The 108-year-old festival at Bethel United Methodist Church is a "social thing," said Myra Ensor, a member of the 50-person congregation.
Sandwiches, a cakewalk, bake table, white elephant table and music will be featured along with berries and ice cream from noon to 6 p.m. June 27 at the church, 3001 Hooper Road near Marston.
Pub Date: 5/29/98