'Berry-tastic' event filled with more rides, food and strawberries

Zoe Greszler • Updated May 22, 2018 at 11:38 AM

Norwalk’s Strawberry Festival made its comeback in 2017 with a successful event featuring several stations the whole family could enjoy.

This year, though, the festival's organizers — the Norwalk Jaycees — have an even better celebration planned. The changes take into account feedback from much of the community, including in areas of food, rides, senior citizen activities and, perhaps most importantly, the strawberry’s presence at the event, which takes place Friday through Monday in downtown Norwalk.

“We’ve heard from people, like when we were first saying we were going to bring the Strawberry Festival back,” festival secretary Rachel Nourse said, “‘They were like, ‘Oh, I remember that. That was such a great time when I was a kid. I can’t wait to bring my kids to it.’ This year we had a booth at the Home and Business Show and heard from people who said, ‘Oh, this is back again? I’m so glad it’s back. That’s great.’ We’re trying to get this as a tradition again.”

Shelley Metro, who serves as the festival committee’s entertainment and sponsoring chairwoman, said she believes events such as this are important for the community to have as a tradition because of what the area in general views as important.

“Norwalk is a small town and I think community values and family values are something that the whole entire town is based off of,” Metro said. “It’s one of those things that if it’s something that as a kid you grew up doing it, then it’s a tradition and you take your kids and they take their kids. I think that’s important with expanding on all the age groups and all the families and ages.”

And expand they have.

This year’s event still will provide the various stations for teens, toddlers, mothers and more, but committee members said they also are adding senior citizen stations and places where Huron County Transit could easily pick up and drop off older members of the community, allowing them to enjoy the festivities as well.

But there are activities and shows for all ages and interests.

“We didn’t exactly know how to prepare for last year,” festival chair Brie Price said.

“I think (this year) we have a wider spectrum of age groups that we’re attracting. This year we have more things like the bingo and the rides — we have a lot more for all the different age groups.

“We have almost everything we had last year, and then some,” Price continued. “The hypnotist, the fans, Touch-a-Truck, 5K, pie-eating contest, even Back to the Wild will be back with us again. Then we’ve added quite a few things, like we’ve added a Christian clogger dancing team.

"We’ll have movies every night at the main stage. The Huron County Sheriff’s Office will be back for fingerprinting. Of course we’ll have the Norwalk High School talent show. They come with their top four winners and perform for us. We have a 1980s-themed pubcrawl this year. We also have an entertainment called Sanction of Souls, which is like an illusionist,” she said.

The list of activities and events have increased quite a bit from last year. Among the most anticipated additions for 2018 are amusement rides.

“Rides are definitely a big thing this year that we didn’t have last year,” committee member Daren Smith said. “We’re getting a better grasp on everything and getting more and more as we grow and learn from everything. I think we’re doing a pretty good job this year. It’s going to be a lot better.”

The 2017 festival featured free children’s activities such inflatables and bouncy houses. Price said these were chosen over actual festival rides because the committee wanted something “that was at no expense to the family.”

“That was really our focus. We wanted to make sure it was family oriented, without a huge expense to the community,” she added.

Upon reviewing the community’s feedback, Price said, the need for rides rang loud and clear. The ride company the committee selected will fit as many rides in the square footage assigned to them by the committee, who admitted they’re “running out of Main Street,” with as large as the festival will be this year.

Smith estimated the space should allow for about five to 10 rides.

The number of food vendors, too, will see a marked increase, with a projected 15 to 20 slated to line the roadway.

“We have plenty more food vendors signed up this year,” Smith said. “We have a lot of local food vendors. There’s going to be a lot more for people.”

When it came to festival planning, Price said the committee spent the most amount of time pouring over the eating options.

“We spend a significant amount of time going over what the food lists are to make sure we’re not overlapping a lot, and that we’re meeting needs of families in general,” she said. “We spend a really unreasonable amount of time on that.”

And this year’s food comes with a “berry fun” twist.

With general feedback from the community, committee members heard the cry for more strawberries throughout the celebration.

“People thought that maybe there wasn’t a whole lot of strawberry presence,” Price said.

“That’s something that we’ve seriously talked about this entire year. So we’re bringing it forward to our food vendors with expectations that there are strawberry presentations, with as reasonably as possible with what they sell, and making sure that we’re putting that out there — making it a huge presence with the festival.”

The group hopes this is just the second in what will be a continuous, dependable staple that the whole surrounding area can look forward to for years to come.

“For us this is still new and fresh and we’re trying to make this work,” Smith said. “As the years go by, it gets better. That’s our goal is to get better every year.”


2018 Strawberry Festival schedule

Friday, May 25

5 p.m. — Festival opens

5-10 p.m. — Early check- in for 5K and Bar Crawl

5-5:30 p.m. — Opening ceremony

6-7 p.m. — Christian Clogger Dancing Team

6-8 p.m. — Touch-A-Truck

9-10:30 p.m. — Disney movie on the main stage

10-1 a.m. — The Real McCoys

Saturday, May 26

9 a.m.-noon — Pancake breakfast sponsored by SBBuilder

9 a.m. — Berry Fun 5K

9:30 a.m. — Berry Cute Baby sign up

10 a.m. — Festival opens

10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. — Berry Cute Baby contest

11 a.m.-2 p.m. — Roaming Magician

1-3 p.m. — Caricature artist

1-3 p.m. — Norwalk Kiwanis Art in the Park

2-4 p.m. — The Music Room

3-3:45 p.m. — Michael Oddo, comedic hypnotist

3:30-5:30 p.m. — Superhero meet and greet (Wonder Woman and Spider-Man)

4:30-5:15 p.m. — Michael Oddo, comedic hypnotist

5-7 p.m. — Norwalk Kiwanis Art in the Park

5-8 p.m. — Bar crawl

6-7 p.m. — NHS talent show

6-8 p.m. — Touch-A-Truck

8-8:15 p.m. — Big Will announces bar crawl winners

9-10:30 p.m. — Disney movie on the main stage

9 p.m.-1 a.m. — The Band from 1988

Sunday, May 27

10 a.m. — Festival opens

1-2 p.m. — Pie-eating contest

1-3 p.m. — Caricature artist

1-3 p.m. — Norwalk Kiwanis Art in the Park

3-6 p.m. — Balloon Twister

2-3 p.m. — Sanctum of Soules

3-4 p.m. — Maple City Church of God performance

3:30-4:30 p.m. — Home Depot project

4-5 p.m. — Sanctum of Soules

4-6 p.m. — Erica Dawn (acoustic)

5:15-6:15 p.m. — Sanctum of Soules

6-6:20 p.m. — Norwalk Police K-9 demonstration 

6:30-7:30 p.m. — Sanctum of Soules

6:30-9p.m. — Matt Goodrich (acoustic)

7-7:20 p.m. — Norwalk Police K-9 demonstration

8-9 p.m. — Sanctum of Soules

9-10:30 p.m. — Disney movie on the main stage

10 p.m.-1 a.m. — County Line Band

Monday, May 28

10 a.m. - Festival opens

11-11:45 a.m. - Back to the Wild

11 a.m.-2 p.m. - Car show

11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. - Princess meet and greet (Moana and Ariel)

Noon-12:45 p.m. — Back to the Wild show

1-3 p.m. — Caricature artist

1-5 p.m. — Bingo in Main Street School

2-3 p.m. — North Star - Norwalk Dance Center performance

5 p.m. — Festival closes

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