06-15-2017 Strawberry Festival was sweet and sticky barrel of fun

2017 Strawberry Festival sweet and sticky barrel of fun

By Nancy Albright

The first weekend in June found Hartford residents and visitors from nearby towns and villages dressed in summer’s most comfortable, braving the heat in Ely Park under clear blue skies, enjoying the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Hartford’s 2017 Strawberry Festival.

THE ROYAL COURT… 2017 Hartford and Strawberry Royalty honored their crowns by taking part in almost every festival event. Pictured (from the left) are: Front row – 1st Runner-up Carter Williams, 2nd Runner-up Bryan Acevedo, Strawberry Prince John Brumley, Strawberry Princess Elizabeth Manning, 2nd Runner-up Amayah Payton, 1st Runner-up Ally Rice; Middle row – 1st Runner-up to Little Mr. Hartford Garrison Snodgrass, Little Mr. Hartford Bryson Prillwitz, 1st Runner-up to Little Miss Hartford Kinsley Kronewetter, Little Miss Hart-ford Lily Goodson, Sweetest Baby Piper Marcoux, 1st Runner-up to Miss Junior Teen Hartford Addison Voss; Back row – Mr. Hartford/Mr. Blos-somtime Hunter Ackerman, Strawberry Shortcake Bexley Carlson, 1st Runner-up to Miss Hartford Makayla Robinson, 2nd Runner-up to Miss Hartford and Miss Congeniality Jessica Rosales, Miss Hartford 2017 Mariel Hallgren, 1st Runner-up to Miss Teen Hartford Catera Hawley, Miss Teen Hartford Regan Sinclair, and Miss Jr. Teen Hartford Lindsey Goodson. (All festival photos by Doug Swift)

The park offered fair food, rides, games, music and more. Festival-goers filled up on gourmet popcorn, elephant ears, Italian sausage and pizza, BBQ, gooey cheesy fries, Sno-Cones, ice cream and pies. Children’s laughter resonated throughout the park as they enjoyed bouncy houses, rides, the climbing wall and games of chance.

Kiddies and candy make for a fun parade

 Hartford residents lined Main Street and waited for the sirens that signify the start of the Kiddie Parade to officially kick off this year’s festival on Friday afternoon.

Grand Marshalls Zoe Phillips and Timmy Dibble led the shiny new Hartford Police car from Red Arrow Elementary, and kids of all sizes threw candy to the crowd and rode their decorated bikes down the street amid cheers from proud parents.

Winners of the bike-decorating contest were Adam Williams, Logan Lehnert and Clayton Lehnert. The Girl Scouts and Hartford Royalty took part in the fun and Hartford and Keeler Township emergency vehicles brought up the rear, sirens blaring, kids riding high and waving to the crowd.

Strawberry royalty crowned

 Following the parade Janell Parker and Anna MacMillan, instrumental to the success of the festival, crowned this year’s Strawberry Royalty.

Eleven-month-old Piper Marcoux, selected from a worthy lot of tiny opponents, was crowned Hartford’s 2017 Sweetest Strawberry Baby. Piper’s older sister Addison Voss said of her little sister, “I’m so happy my baby sister is the sweetest baby!”

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE… Strawberry Shortcake 2017 Bexley Carlson and proud mom Megan Carlson waving to those lined up to watch the parade.

This year’s Strawberry Shortcake was Bexley Carlson. Miss Carlson was the 2016 Sweetest Strawberry Baby and may one day be Strawberry Princess. One never knows.

Then the people’s voices were heard as they voted in the Strawberry Princes and Princesses. The big winners were Strawberry Princess Elizabeth Manning, 1st Runner-up Ally Rice and 2nd Runner-up Amayah Payton; Strawberry Prince John Brumley, 1st Runner-up Carter Williams and 2nd Runner-up Bryan Acevedo.

Congratulations to the 2017 Strawberry Royalty. Your family and friends must be very proud!

Harbor Town entertained festival goers after the Strawberries were crowned on Friday evening with classic rock, oldies and vintage blues. Hits by Tommy James and the Shondells, Fleetwood Mac, Pat Benatar and many others filled the air. Local photographer Doug Swift said, “The crowd was dancing in their seats, they loved it!”

Five stars for this year’s Strawberry Run

 Runners and walkers of all ages took part in the 39th Annual Strawberry Run sponsored by the Hartford Lions Club, entertaining spectators with a One Mile Fun Run, 5K Walk, 5K Run and a 10K Run that started Saturday’s festivities.

STRAWBERRY RUN 2017 5K WINNER… Strawberry Run 1st Place finisher in the 5K Male Division was Carter Finch of Grand Junction, MI with a time of 18:14.

Lions Club member and Race Director Kim Sinclair has taken on the enormous task of organizing the run for the last 11 years and again, Kim and a host of good-natured volunteers helped make the fun event run smoothly.

The event began with the Hartford Band Boosters traditional pancake breakfast followed by the One Mile Fun Run, with dozens of kids from local elementary schools participating. Fun runners received free t-shirts and special medals in the shape of a dog tag imprinted with the Running Strawberry logo.

Fun was had by all who participated in the 5K Walk, a non-competitive event designed to draw those who want to incorporate a bit of exercise into the day’s festivities. Parents, kids, babies in strollers, and even some dogs took part in the walk.

The Hartford Band Boosters fed the masses. Hartford Schools donated their facilities for the day. The Hartford Fire Department, Hartford Sheriff’s Department and Medic One Ambulance services donated their time, staff and equipment to help manage the race and provide emergency services to runners in distress. Members of many local organizations staffed water stations along the run route to help runners cool down on the hot summer day.

This year’s top 10K Run finishers were Spencer Carr of Benton Harbor, MI (41.07); Sean Patton of Evanston, IL (42.30); Steve Wright of St. Joseph, MI (43.08); Chad Baird of Coloma, MI (43.32); Randy Marsh of South Bend, IN (43.49); Crystal Cowgill of Hartford (47.18); Isidro Quiroz of Hartford (47.35); Sasha Villagrana-Frost of Chicago (48.56); Margaret Rivera of Chicago (49.14); and Tim Bond of Mattawan, MI (50.33).

STRAWBERRY RUN 2017 10K WINNER… Strawberry Run 1st Place finisher in the 10K Male Division was Spencer Carr of Benton Harbor, MI with a time of 41.07.

The top 10 finishers in the 5K Run were Carter Finch of Grand Junction, MI (18:14); Rafael Lopez of Eau Claire, MI (19:36); Ben Munoz of Bangor, MI (20:10); Ryan Maggert of Dowagiac, MI (20:27); Chase Moxley of Coloma, MI (20:46); Greg Little of Gobles, MI (20:55); Kody Edmonds of Hartford (20:57); Derrick Rosses (21:01); Mark Drallette of Scotts, MI (21:04); and Zach Grear of Lawton, MI ( 21:06).

The top finishers in the 5K Walk were Lisa Bale of Holland, MI (33:39); Bruce Gelbaugh of Plainwell, MI (41:19); Ken Willer of Hartford (42:44); Jill Bullock of Lawton, MI (43:17); Jim Grabowski of Hickory Hills, IL ( 44:23); Stephen G. Shafer of Hartford (44:24); Mark Unrath of Hartford (45:08); Christina Van Hoey of Southfield, MI (46:27); Dina Molter of Paw Paw, MI (46:48); and Aislyn Waggoner of Dundee, MI ( 46:51).

The races were timed by Everal Race Management. Visit everalracemgt.com for a complete list of winners and finishing times.

Race winners received medals engraved with the Strawberry Run logo, and the top three winners in both races were presented with engraved plaques. Run participant Debbie May said that, “My first time at this race. It was great! The breakfast for participants and the strawberries for the winners were an extra perk. Thanks to everyone who helped put this on. I will be back next year and bring family to participate.” And James Atteberry said of this year’s race, “Kim Sinclair did an amazing job organizing this event.”

The Lions Club is a non-profit organization and the Strawberry Run is the group’s major fundraiser each year. All proceeds from the event – hard-earned by organizers, volunteers and participants alike – are cycled back into local Lions Club projects.

The big parade hits the streets of Hartford

 A vintage Van Buren’s County Sheriff’s car followed modern cruisers to make Hartford’s Main Street safe for parade-goers to get the festival in gear early Saturday afternoon. Candy flew while onlookers happily scrambled to catch the sweet treats, and waited expectantly for each entry to pass them by on the parade route.

NO LIFE LIKE “A BUG’S LIFE”… The 2017 Hartford Royals manned the Hartford community float which won the award for Best Overall Entry as it rolled to the theme of “A Bug’s Life.”

Not only was the parade well-attended, but well-stocked with a wide variety of attractions. The Hartford High School Band and the Hartford Full Gospel Assembly provided the music for floats created by Hartford, Watervliet and Coloma Royalty, and the Lawrence Court of Honor, all regal in their demeanor, faces lit with bright smiles.

Representatives from local businesses in fancy cars, Hartford Mayor Pro-Tem Rick Hall waving to the crowd from his shiny green John Deere, roaring racecars, and a mint-condition 1960 Studebaker cruised down Main. And speaking of wheels, no parade is complete without a band of Shriners on little motorbikes, tassels flying, keeping parade-goers safe. Beep, beep!

World War II veteran Willis Bouma, chauffeured by Red Arrow Elementary Principal Mr. D., proudly sported his military duds and waved to the crowd. Mr. Bouma, a member of Hartford VFW Post #63, served in Europe from 1944 – 1946 as a jeep driver in the Battle of the Bulge after the 106th Division was, according to the retired soldier, “shot to pieces.” The Battle of the Bulge took place in Belgium and Luxembourg from December 16, 1944 – January 25, 1945, and was the final major German offensive campaign in its western theater during World War II. A hearty thank you goes out to Mr. Bouma for his service in the United States Military.

STRAWBERRY PIE EATING CONTESTANT… Rylee Deckard wisely braided her hair for the Junior Division in the Annual Strawberry Pie-eating Contest and exhibited great skill, not a hair out of place!

Emergency vehicles packed with emergency personnel and waving kids, and a massive snowplow (not unfamiliar in these parts) took up the rear.

This year’s parade winners were: Best Overall Entry – Hartford Royalty Float, A Bug’s Life; Best Float – Ice Cream Shop, River of Life Church; Best Marching Unit – Hartford Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts; Best Youth Entry – Jesus de Camino; and Best Vehicle – Larry Blyly’s Studebaker Lark Wagon.

Off to the races

 The competition was fast and fun as the team from the Arrowhead Bar & Grill squared off with Hartford Royalty to compete for the title of 2017 Bed Race Champions.

“Ready, Set, Go!” and the beds on wheels were off, racing up and down Main Street through an obstacle course of orange cones. The winner was based on the best two out of three, but the Arrowhead team cleaned it up in the first two heats.

READY, SET, GO!… The Arrowhead Bar & Grill took back the title from the Hartford Royals this year as the winners of the 2017 Strawberry Festival Bed Races. Pictured (from the left) are Joe Beebe, David Fernandez, Javier Naranjo, Moses Fernandez, and the brave girl in the bed is Yovana Naranjo.

The competitors were certainly entitled to a well-deserved nap after a hard race under the hot Hartford sun.

Look mom no hands!

Strawberry pies made by long-time Hartford baker Vicki McFarland, who “just wants everyone to enjoy pie!” were the center of attention for contestants of all ages when faced with the task of eating an entire pie with no hands in order to win this year’s Strawberry Pie Eating Contest.

The more experienced contestants quickly flipped the gooey confections upside down then got down to the sticky business of gulping down the sweet treats.

Makeva Sanders won the Junior Division title; Catera Hawley, Miss Teen Hartford Runner-up, took the prize in the Royalty Division; and Gabe of Bomba’s Food Truck in Lawton took a time out from serving up his award-winning BBQ to win the Senior Division.

Weird Al Yankovic, appropriately pumped through the sound system by Joe MacMillan of Coloma-based 80s Productions, crooned the contestants with the sounds of the ever-popular Eat It! “I don’t care if you’re full, Just eat it, eat it, eat it, eat it, Open up your mouth and feed it!”

Congratulations to the winners and thank you for the good sport and the good show!

Karaoke, Renaissance and Elvis hit the 2017 festival

 There was plenty of talent to go around at the Strawberry Karaoke Contest on Saturday afternoon as local singers tuned their voices and sang to win. Alora Gatties won the Junior Division with her rendition of To Make You Feel My Love by Bob Dylan, and Veronica Uvalle took the prize in the Senior Division with Oh, Darling by the Beatles.

The Alleykat Dance Studios of Bangor performed for the crowd, the troupe scheduled to compete in the World Competition in Secaucus, NJ this fall, and Knightwinds Renaissance Group entertained onlookers with sword fights, Blind Man’s Bluff, belly-dancing, and fortune-telling, all presided over by the Lords and Ladies of the Renaissance.

Steve Otto and the Sounds of Elvis, and the Tom Askey Project closed the festival with the sounds of rock, country and alternative sounds.

Thanks all around

 Big thanks to the Hartford Chamber of Commerce for organizing yet another successful Strawberry Festival. Also, thanks goes out to the Hartford Lions, City of Hartford, Hartford Township, the Downtown Development Association, Hartford Public Schools, local businesses and all that donated time and funds to bring the community together for summer fun in the park.

And last but certainly not least, many special thanks to Janell Parker and Anna MacMillan for all their hard work to create such a fun event.

Look forward to seeing you all next year!