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Poteet Strawberry Festival Guests Have a Berry Good Time
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The 71st annual Strawberry Festival returned to Poteet, Texas, from April 13 through April 15.

Though Poteet is a small town with under 4,000 residents, it is famously recognized as the “Strawberry Capital of Texas.”

The first strawberry festival was launched in 1948 by the Poteet Rotary Club. The annual event boasts 14 areas of continuous entertainment set on 109 acres and has something for the whole family to enjoy. The Poteet Strawberry Festival continues to be as popular as ever as people grow to appreciate the importance of farming and keeping agriculture alive.

Admission and Attendance

Carol Rivera, executive director of the festival, says that attendance was up this year – especially on Saturday – with the largest turnout to date.

Around 170,000 festival-goers showed up to enjoy the strawberry extravaganza this year. In 2017, 140,000 people turned out.

Cost of admission was $15 for people age 13 and older. Discounted tickets could be purchased online at a rate of $12.50. Visitors were able to take advantage of $5 gate admission on Friday, April 13, and active and retired military personnel and children 12 and under received free entry for the duration of the festival.

Carnival Armband Night was featured Thursday, April 12, where visitors could purchase wristbands for $25 and use them for unlimited rides from 6 to 10 p.m. On Friday, April 15, festival attendees had the opportunity to take advantage of $1 rides all night. Wristbands on Saturday, April 14, were available at a cost of $35.

Midway Entertainment
The festival's midway rides are provided by Alamo Attractions. There are 52 rides in total and Rivera says that some of the more popular with visitors are the Mega Drop and the Zipper. Total ride gross for 2018 was $400,000.

A lot of food options abound at this festival – many offerings with a focus on strawberries, of course. There are 32 food vendors on the festival side which include local churches and nonprofit groups, and 10 vendors on the carnival side.

“People come to the festival to try all the different things with strawberries,” says Rivera.

She says some festival favorites include the strawberry nachos, strawberry shortcake, strawberry ice cream and chocolate dipped strawberries. There is also strawberry jam, deep fried strawberries and strawberry wine for the adults. For people who aren't keen on the plump red berries, a variety of other options can be found. Some popular choices include turkey legs and Piggy Puffs fried potatoes. Food entertainment is also on the agenda – there are hot dog and strawberry eating contests as well as the Taste of Texas Food Show. Participation in the show is open to people age 5 and older. Some categories of entries include cakes, cheesecakes, cookies, candies, jam and jelly, salsa and yeast and quick breads

More than 130 acts are featured at the festival. A pirate show and street acts were new to the stage this year. Musical entertainment included, but was not limited to, Foghat, Tanya Tucker, Ramon Ayala, Jaime y Los Chamacos, Doo-Wah Riders, The Spazmatics, and Natalie Rose. The festival also featured rodeo performances, the Lupe Sosa Monster Truck Ride Experience, gunslingers, a petting zoo, the Kenneth Stephens Open Fiddle Contest, Fire on the Mountain Cloggers, the Prehistoric Dinosaur Adventures Mobile Fossil Museum and a variety of strolling acts such as Freckles the much-loved strawberry mascot. Visitors could also shop from arts and crafts vendors.

Strawberry show and auction
A big part of the festival is the strawberry show and auction. Strawberries are judged on uniformity, size, color, fullness on the inside of the berry and how they taste.
Tess Chandler, Hannah Chandler and Hallie Bates of Three Cousins Strawberry Patch took home the Grand Champion title at the auction on Saturday, April 14. Their crate of winning Albion berries sold for a total of $16,100.
Poteet Country Winery owner and strawberry grower Jim Collums was the Reserve Grand Champion. His Camino Real strawberries sold for $6,000.

Poteet Strawberry Festival's annual advertising budget is 38,000 with strong support from local media outlets

Festival Importance
The strawberry festival is an important part of the community and Rivera says she hopes it continues to be in the future as people realize the importance of keeping farming going strong.

“We feature all local strawberry growers,” she shares. “The farming industry is declining and we try to encourage local growers and nonprofits to get involved.”

The Poteet Strawberry Festival Association aims to provide people with the resources they need to help keep strawberry farming alive and well.

“We also provide a tractor for use,” Rivera says. “We try very hard to hold on to the things that make a small town special – to have that personal feeling when you get here.”

There are between 20 to 25 growers and around 1,000 volunteers helping out with the annual event. The berries offered at the festival come from multi-acre farms as well as small strawberry gardens. The demand for Poteet Strawberries is impressive and sometimes greater than the supply. The festival website has noted that outside strawberry markets have moved into the area to take advantage of the crowds. To assure that fair-goers are getting genuine Poteet berries, local berries are sold in specially designed boxes that state “Fresh Produce-Poteet, Texas” during the festival weekend.

Rivera adds that another main goal of the festival is and will continue to be providing a well-rounded family event that children and their parents can come out and enjoy together.

“We want them to feel like they really had a special day going to the festival,” she says. “They can participate in an outdoor event in an interactive family activity.”

Helping out area youth is another focal point of the event. The Poteet Strawberry Festival Association has an established scholarship program that funds 30 scholarships to Poteet graduates each year to help them further their education.
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