Another 'berry' successful festival

Zoe Greszler • Updated May 29, 2018 at 12:47 AM

Returning for its second year after a long hiatus, Norwalk’s Strawberry Festival was an even bigger hit with more rides, activities, shows and food for the community to enjoy. 

“I feel like it went really well,” said Erin Smetzer from the Norwalk Jaycees, which organized the event. “It seems like everyone really enjoyed themselves.”

New to this year’s festival were carnival rides, which were added to the children’s inflatable bouncy houses that were popular last year. Rides and more family activities were a few of the requests the community made in its feedback of last year’s festival.

“I think the public really enjoyed the carnival rides and the inflatables and the Tot Zone,” Smetzer said. “It was cool to be able to have part of it free. And the movies were a great success on the main stage. We had the kids’ movies every night and those were a great success.”

Families could enjoy a showing of a free film that was projected onto a large inflatable screen each night of the festival, which ran Friday through Monday. The Jaycees chose to play recent hit films “Coco,” “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and “Moana.”

Tyler Roesch and Brenna Maynard, both of Norwalk, said they came to the festival to enjoy “family time” with daughter Mckenna.

“I think it was really good,” Maynard said of the festival. “I think they did a great job definitely, and (Mckenna) loved it.”

Mckenna especially enjoyed bouncy houses and merry-go-round.

“They even had a little play area for the little kids to enjoy,” Maynard said. “It was definitely a family-friendly atmosphere.”

Roesch said the family was drawn to the festival by the food options, which they agreed seemed to be in a larger variety this year.

Smetzer said the committee added two more vendors, bringing the total to 14, and increased the variety of options. New selections this year included pizza and fried fish. 

Tannis Pancost, 14, of Wakeman, went the festival Saturday to hang out with friends and family, and visited a few of the food trucks. 

“My favorite thing was the chicken wings from All Fried Up,” he said. “They were good.” 

Pancost’s mother, Kellie Pancost, said she felt it was a good use of their weekend and a nice way for the family to spend time together. 

“We just came to hang out,” she said. “I grew up in Norwalk so I remember coming to the Strawberry Fest when I was little.”

Pancost said she was pleased with the event.

“I would like to see more strawberries, but I realize it’s a work in progress and I think they did a really nice job this year,” she said. 

Tannis agreed, adding it was “more organized” than last year’s reboot of the event. 

Another change in this year’s festival was the location of the beer tent, which was moved to be on the main way instead of a side ally. The enclosed area butted up to the performance stage, where nightly concerts were held in front of the Norwalk Public Library. Smetzer said the change of location largely had to do with a change in city ordinances that now allows alcohol to be served and consumed on public property as long as a permit is obtained.

"I think that it was very tamed and under control,” she said of the crowds there. “The bands that we had weren’t too much. We closed at 1 (a.m.) so that was a good time, I think. Last year we closed at 11 and so we were a little nervous about that 11 to 1 slot, but everyone was well behaved and they really seemed to enjoy themselves.”

Burt Rupp, of Norwalk, enjoyed Saturday night’s performance by the band 1988 with his 2-year-old grandson Zayden McMurray.

“It’s great. We love it,” he said. “It’s one of the best things they did — moving the beer tent up on Main Street, instead of hiding it behind in the ally. It was like, ‘Why are you trying to hide something?’ I think they did pretty good last year. I think moving it up here shows that it can be done and it can be handled well.”

Rupp and McMurray danced to the music and enjoyed the atmosphere together. 

“It’s nice to have (the beer tent) in front of the stage,” he said. “We like the music. I think there are a lot more people that are liking this genre more maybe than some others they could have had. And (McMurray) is a dancer so he loves it too.”

Smetzer said the Jaycees are pleased with the way the festival went.

“We’re going to continue taking the feedback from the public and improving each year to keep getting better,” she said.

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