# 1: Fort Mill’s new spring festival

tgraham@fortmilltimes.comJanuary 6, 2011 

— Can you say S.C. Strawberry Festival? That’s right.

Gaffney has its peaches, and Fort Mill has its strawberries so much so that the town’s annual spring festival was revamped around the juicy fruit as a way of rebranding the town.

“Through rebranding, we want to reach beyond Fort Mill’s boundaries to people across the state to showcase the talent we have here and shops and restaurants,” Asst. Town Manager Joe Cronin said.

So long Springfest.

Continuing with the town’s annual spring fling, Springfest, wouldn’t do the job.

“It was so stale,” Mayor Danny Funderburk said of comments from residents, who stopped attending Springfest, formerly known as Fest-i-Fun.

A “stale” festival wouldn’t do much to help the town bring in more foot traffic to explore its downtown businesses, so Cronin stepped to the table with an idea –first presented during a town council retreat – that changed the make-up of the town’s spring fling.

Enter S.C. Strawberry Festival, a multiple-day fest with a strawberry theme.

“We’re looking at having a strawberry ice cream contest and a strawberry pie eating contest,” Cronin said. “We’d like to have a strawberry baking contest.”

Most festivals have a queen or two. Fort Mill would not be the exception to the rule, debuting the S.C. Strawberry Festival Pageant, where two were crowned queens. The festival also featured the Strawberry Jam, a mixture of musical entertainment showcased at Walter Elisha Park, as well as a 5k walk/run, Berry the Competition recipe contest and a plethora of fun for the young and young at heart. The fun wrapped up with the traditional Dylan Mitchell Memorial Criterium.

In another break from tradition, the fest also included beer sales.

In addition to Fort Mill residents, festival-goers included residents of Charlotte, Indian Land, Rock Hill and more. The family-friendly fun attracted thousands.

“Somewhere around 15,000,” Cronin said. “It exceeded even our expectation, and we had pretty high expectations.”

About 100 vendors were available. Meanwhile, the lines for rides were long.

“They had bull riding,” Matthew Thomas said. “I fell off twice.”

As the fun wrapped up, some people were reluctant to leave, making Cronin smile.

“Fort Mill’s not just big on the berry. Fort Mill is huge on the berry!,” Cronin said. “We wanted to make this event something that would put Fort Mill on the map as a destination. We wanted to establish an identity for our spring festival, and we’ve really done that.”

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