There’s nothing better than spending a Saturday afternoon surrounded by friends and family, stuffing your face with delightful bites such as strawberry shortcake, strawberry sundaes and chocolate covered strawberries. With a variety of strawberry desserts for sale, the Rotary Clubs of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County are raising funds to support local park initiatives.
The event will be held May 19 in the parking lot of the City of Harrisonburg Government Building from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be plenty of live music performances by local bands Who Shot John and Strongwater, along with a variety of food trucks such as Flavor Saver BBQ. Admission is free to ensure a day filled with plenty of kid activities, such as a bounce house and dunk tank, provided by local non-profits in a family-friendly environment.
The annual Rotary Strawberry Festival is sponsored by Rockingham Insurance. It’s organized by the five area Rotary Clubs located in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. The rotary clubs will be selling $5 strawberry desserts prepared by members of the rotary clubs and the Massanutten Technical Center.
“Rockingham Insurance has been here serving the community since 1869,” Bill Bayer, vice president of marketing for Rockingham Insurance, said. “And as a partner of the community, we think it’s really important to support the events which benefit our community.”
This will be the first big sponsorship Rockingham Insurance will be involved in, and the company is excited to help benefit the community, and dedicated to supporting its goal of “community over corporate.” The event began two years ago when former president of the Harrisonburg Rotary Club, David Larson, worked to create the event.
“I love that it’s an event that’s for the entire community,” Larson said. “Doesn’t matter who you are— young, old, rich or poor. It’s an event that the whole community can benefit from and enjoy.”
All of the proceeds from the event will go to benefit local parks in and around Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. Last year, the event raised almost $40,000 for local park initiatives, a number the rotary clubs hope to match or exceed with this year’s event.
“I can’t thank Rockingham Insurance, along with all our other sponsors, enough for all they have done to help ensure that the event will be a huge success this year,” Andy Vanhook, president of Harrisonburg Rotary Club, said.
With a dedication to service, all five of the local rotary clubs host different events each year to benefit a variety of causes. The Harrisonburg Rotary Club in particular, often re-stocks local food pantries and gives an ethics award to a girl and boy in each of the Rockingham County and Harrisonburg public schools for outstanding ethical behavior.
“All members of rotary honor our motto, ‘Service above self,’” Vanhook said. “There’s a level of understanding there that we are all involved to try and benefit the community, so that's kind of neat in that space to be able to go out and serve and truly make a difference.”
The proceeds from this year’s Strawberry Festival benefit the Build Our Park project in their mission to build a multi-use park in the heart of downtown Harrisonburg in the next year. Since 2013, local nonprofit group Downtown Harrisonburg Park Corporation has been working toward their goal of building the park in hopes that the festival will help bring them closer to success. The proposal for the park includes a discovery playground, splash fountain and many other elements for the Harrisonburg community to enjoy.
With a variety of activities and entertainment throughout the day, the Rotary Strawberry Festival promises a fun, relaxing day filled with delicious bites and of course, tons of strawberries. Whether it be stopping by to enjoy delicious food, music and activities or buying strawberry desserts to help fund the building of local parks, the festival offers something for everyone and aspires to bring the Harrisonburg and Rockingham community together.
“I’m a people person, and my favorite part about this event is just getting to watch everyone enjoy the day, whether that be little kids getting strawberries all over their face or just families enjoying their time together,” Vanhook said. “There’s a lot of great events in Harrisonburg, but this one in particular has just a really inviting atmosphere that allows everyone to have a good time and come together as a community.”
Contact Emily Montoya at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.