One of Chester County’s most-anticipated events of the year, the Strawberry Festival, returns to the grounds of the Brandywine Hospital – Tower Health, starting Thursday, May 31, for four days of family-oriented entertainment.
Organized by the Brandywine Health Foundation and presented by Key Bank and PECO, the event is celebrating its 46th year of raising funds for the Coatesville community.
The festival evolved from the initial efforts by nurses from the old Coatesville Hospital to raise money for scholarships by selling strawberry shortcakes. Now, the event hosts upwards of 30,000 visitors and features live entertainment, pony rides, a mechanical bull, an international food fair, a Craft, art and vendor Fair, a used book sale, amusement rides, Strawberryland (for kids under eight), and, of course, strawberry shortcakes.
With the help of sponsors and 700 volunteers, including many whose organizations are beneficiaries of the festival, the Brandywine Health Foundation is able to keep the festival affordable for families. Admission is free, as is much of the entertainment.
“It’s really a great, volunteer-driven event that brings the community together,” said Ron Miller, a member of the Strawberry Festival Committee and the Fire Police Captain at the Thorndale Volunteer Fire Company, one of four beneficiaries of the festival. “Our volunteers at the Fire Company direct the parking all four days. It’s a major fundraiser for us and a Coatesville tradition.”
Sponsorship opportunities are still available as a way to support the Coatesville community. The Brandywine Health Foundation suggests there is no better return on your investment than what you receive from coming to the aid of your neighbors, investing in the community where you live and/or work, and investing in the youth who hold the promise of a brighter and stronger future.
Investing in the youth is what the Coatesville Youth Initiative is all about. That organization joins the Thorndale Volunteer Fire Company, Coatesville Area Public Library, and Coatesville Rotary Club as beneficiaries of the festival.
“We continue to have a great relationship with them,” said Chaya Scott, CYI’s Executive Director.
The funds her organization receives from the Strawberry Festival support the ServiceCorps program, an eight-week summer service and leadership development program for Coatesville youth between the ages of 14 and 18.
“The funds from the festival make it possible for us to create opportunities where our kids are not only developing their life, leadership and work skills, but they get the chance to use their skills and talents to be of value in their community,” said Scott. “We are very excited that this is the ninth summer that we have been running this successful program. It is life-changing for our kids.”
Also life-changing was the first time Carlyle Holling put on her strawberry costume for the event. She is now entering her 15th year as “The Strawberry Lady.”
The former costume designer had always worked behind the scenes and never considered becoming an actor until the day she volunteered to wear the costume at the festival.
“You’re willing to do things you would never do otherwise, because in costume you become somebody else,” she said. “I just work myself around the festival. I talk to the kids, talk to the teenagers, and just do my thing.
“But I found that through the years, I got more and more adventurous. I’d go up on the stage where the band was playing and dance. Believe me, that is not me at all.”
“The most special thing for me is when I greet those who are between two and seven years old,” she said. “Some are kind of speechless when they see me because I’m really big. But they are just so in love with me, and they run up to me and they all love to hug me and have their picture taken with me.
“It’s been a really wild ride for me; the experience has been incredible.”
The 46th Strawberry Festival runs from May 31 through June 3, with the fireworks spectacular on Friday night. Thursday night is wristband night, when anyone purchasing a $25 wristband gets unlimited amusement rides.
Click here for more information, including an event schedule and sponsorship opportunities.