FORT MILL — Surf’s up! The fifth annual S.C. Strawberry Festival is just around the corner and organizers have something extra special planned for this year.
To mark the milestone fifth anniversary of the Town of Fort Mill’s award-winning signature event, held April 25-May 3, the 2014 edition has been dubbed Berry’s Beach Bash.
The theme will include live beach music and shag dancing. There will be a mini clinic offered for those who want to learn the official dance of South Carolina and organizers might add a shag contest to the festivities. Another new event on tap is a wing-eating contest held in conjunction with Fort Mill-based Puckerbutt Pepper Co., home of the Guinness-certified world’s hottest pepper.
The theme might be new, but the festival features some favorite events that helped the S.C. Strawberry Festival become the state’s top festival two years in a row, according to a panel of judges. The fun begins with the S.C. Strawberry Festival Pageant Friday, April 25, in the Nation Ford High School auditorium. Also returning are the hilarious pig races, the Berry the Competition recipe contest, a pancake breakfast, golf tournament, Texaco Country Showdown talent contest and more. Back by popular demand is Pick’n’ Flick – strawberry picking across from Springs Farm on Springfield Parkway, followed by an outdoor, family-friendly movie.
As always, the main portion of the festival, May 2-3 at Walter Elisha Park, offers a wide variety of food vendors, carnival rides and games and live music on several stages. Saturday night after dark is when the featured act takes the stage. Last year, it was The Marshall Tucker Band and a record crowd rocked the park. This year’s headliner has not yet been announced. was not announced at press time.
The festival has grown each year since it began and now attracts tens of thousands of visitors a year. One change necessitated by how much the festival has grown is moving the traditional Saturday morning pancake breakfast from The Peach Stand to Nation Ford High School. Proceeds from the breakfast benefit the NaFo Booster Club. Another change is judging for the recipe contest will be done at the Fort Mill History Museum, across from the park, rather than under a tent at the park.
“That way, if it’s sweltering hot, the food won’t melt,” said Kimberly Starnes, town spokeswoman and one of the event’s main organizers.
As always, parking is limited in and around the park, located on North White Street, in the heart of downtown Fort Mill, so festival-goers are encouraged to use the park-and-ride shuttles at the following locations: Nation Ford High School, Fort Mill High School, Riverview Elementary School (handicapped only), First Baptist Church, Ardrey Street/Faile Street, Old Nation/North White Street, Jackson Street/North White Street (handicapped only) and St. John’s United Methodist Church(handicapped only). Maps and directions are available at the official festival’s website. (handicapped parking will be available behind Riverview Elementary School and St. John’s United Methodist Church,130 Tom Hall St.):
For more information about the S.C. Strawberry Festival, go to scstrawberryfestival.com.
Michael Harrison • 803-547-2353