Annual four-day festival starts May 31, has rides, music, food and, of course, its famous strawberry shortcake
By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
CALN — It may have started as small, one-day event to raise money for a nursing scholarship, but the Strawberry Festival has blossomed into one of the keystone events signaling summer in Chester County.
Now back for its 40th year, the festival — held on the grounds of Brandywine Hospital — kicks off Thursday night with four days of excitement, including fireworks, a midway, food, live music and dozens of fun attractions for the entire family.
“It’s a really special, special event,” said Frances Sheehan, President and CEO of the Brandywine Health Foundation. She offered praise to the many volunteers who make the event happen, including Chris Saello, of the United Way of Chester County and Karol Collins of Coatesville, this years co-chairs of the event.
The festival is expected to raise as much as $100,000 for the Coatesville Youth Initiative of the Brandywine Health Foundation, organizers say. The CYI focuses on education and college readiness, summer employment and family and leadership building programs for the Coatesville Area School District community.
“Through the Coatesville Youth Initiative, we’re able to offer a wide range of programs and services to the Coatesville community,” Sheehan said. She cited everything from helping students discover paths to college, to a summer job program, family building programs as just a small part of what CYI is able to do in the community, funded in part by the Strawberry Festival.
In previous years, proceeds have supported various community groups, including the Thorndale Fire Company, the Brandywine YMCA and the Coatesville Public Library.
All of the fun attractions — and fresh strawberries and strawberry shortcake — are back, with a few improvements to make the event even better for attendees. The Strawberry Stage has been relocated to the center of the festival and will feature the best in local music acts throughout the four days. The Berry Blast Zone, Friday through Sunday, is a new mobile gaming van that allows you to compete with friends and family — up to 16 people — with free strawberry shortcake for the winner of each session.
Thursday night kicks off the fun on the midway with Wristband Night. For $25, those buying wristbands can ride all of the rides they want for one-low price — but the wristbands are only good for Thursday night. For the rest of the weekend, rides are on an individual ticket basis: two tickets for $3, 25 tickets for $25, 56 tickets for $50. Rides range from 2 to 5 tickets per ride, but most fall into the 3-to-4 ticket range.
On Friday night is a special 40th Anniversary fireworks display sponsored by Oliver Tyrone Pulver Corporatio at 9:45 p.m. (rain date, Saturday night). On Sunday, the Disney AM 640 Road Crew will be on-site and on the Strawberry Stage from 12 – 2 pm for music, games and prizes at Strawberry Festival. This is immediately followed by the popular “Strawberriest Kids Contest” for children age five and younger, starting at 2 pm.
Strawberryland — a special play area for younger visitors has been brought back due to popular demand, event organizers say. The area includes moon bounces, play areas, slides all for a single admission of $8 for a wristband, which is good all day long.
Parking will be available adjacent to the festival grounds and free shuttle service is available from 5 – 11 pm on Friday and Saturday nights from the K-Mart in Thorndale.
Hurricane Hill Farm will be sponsoring a new Local Fresh Farm Stand featuring local strawberries, in-season produce and hanging baskets.
Brandywine Hospital will be hosting a health fair tent with important information tables and screenings.
There will also be a Vendor Fair Area where visitors can shop for unique and fun items and browse through the many informational booths.
Many local businesses are sponsoring the festival, with First Niagara Band and PECO serving as presenting sponsors, Herr’s and Sikorsky Global Heliocopters are sponsoring Strawberryland, Oliver Tyrone Pulver Corporation is sponsoring the fireworks show, TD Bank is sponsoring the Berry Blast Zone, Citadel Credit Union is sponsoring the Strawberry Shortcake, Greystone Academy is sponsoring the refreshment booth, CS Bank is sponsoring the souvenir booth, Bottom Dollar Food is sponsoring the Arts & Craft Tent, ArcelorMittal is sponsoring the TGIF event, DNB First Bank is sponsoring the raffle, Gallagher Benefit Services is sponsoring the Strawberriest Kid Contest, Comphrensive Cancer Care is sponsoring the Healthcare Tent, Coatesville VA Medical Center is sponsoring the Ice Cream Booth, ServiceMark is sponsoring parking and the free shuttle, Sam’s Club is sponsoring the Vendor Fair and Hurricane Hill Farm is sponsoring the local farm stand.
For the second year in a row, Signal 88 of Octorara is also a corporate sponsor of the Strawberry Festival.
Signal 88 Security of Octorara, a commercial security franchise, will once again be providing its services at the event — as it does for Brandywine Hospital.
“This is our second year not only as a commercial security contractor but also as a sponsor, and we are pleased to continue this partnership with the Brandywine Health Foundation and other organizations in our community,” said Peter Mango, owner of Signal 88 Security of Octorara and former East Fallowfield police chief.
The Strawberry Festival started in 1973 as a one-day event on the grounds of the Coatesville City Hall. Since then, it has grown into a four-day festival on the grounds of Brandywine Hospital. Event organizers said more than 28,000 people attended in 2011. Originally put on by the nurses at then Coatesville Hospital (the hospital moved to its current location in 1981) to raise funds for a nursing scholarship, the festival grew to be one of the now-Brandywine Hospital’s most successful fund raising events.
A decade ago, the Brandywine Health Foundation became the prime mover behind the Strawberry Festival. In that time, the event has grown to become one of the signature events in Chester County, while raising money for various local causes and organizations.