75th Annual Strawberry Festival
May 10-14 • MiddleTNStrawberryFesitval.com
When it comes to delicious strawberries, no one has the jump on Sumner’s Portland, which has long been known for growing some exemplary examples of the fruit. While the strawberry industry in the area was just getting started in the late 1800s, by the 1950s it was so advanced Breyer Ice Cream had a fruit processing plant in town just to freeze the sweet berries for its ice cream.
And while that plant is gone, the berry is still just as celebrated today as it was then. This year’s 75th Annual Strawberry Festival will showcase the area’s berry pride to an even bigger crowd than last year’s estimated 25,000 people.
“It’s just a culmination of everything that has happened over the past 74 years,” says Freda Scott with the Portland Chamber of this year’s celebration. “The festival events are going to have include a pageant, a golf tournament, we have a library story hour, we have Music on Main and then our main festival day is May 14.”
Kristen Daughtry, event coordinator with the Portland Chamber of Commerce, was first introduced to the event seven years ago when she moved to the area with her hometown husband.
“I had heard about it, but usually in the summer I was playing ball,” she says. “After I graduated college and we got married and moved up here, that was my first experience with it. It’s kind of overwhelming at first if you’ve never been because you don’t really know what to expect, but it’s a lot of people and it’s a lot of fun. Portland is a smaller town but we usually have a lot of out-of-towners and a lot of people who come back. It’s just continued to grow and grow.”
A lifelong resident of Portland, Scott has really seen the event blossom firsthand over the years, buoyed by word of mouth and, of course, the delicious berries.
“People love local produce and they are grown right here on the farms in Portland,” she says.
Each year’s berry crop depends on the weather, and while some years in the past have seen some festivals with very little berries, Daughtry says this year looks to be all systems go for lots of strawberries on hand.
“All the farmers we’ve talked to this year say things are going great,” she says. “Some of them already have some of their earlier strawberry crops out right now available for picking. And we tried to contact some additional farmers from the Middle Tennessee area to come in and set up just to try to have more strawberries. That’s what everybody comes for.”
She says one additional farm from Robertson County and possibly a few more will be set up at the festival in addition to the local farmers who will be selling berries along the highway.
‘The farmers will set up at 10 a.m. when the main highway closes down, and they’ll be there until they sell out,” Daughtry says.
The theme this year is “There’s No Place Like Home,” which is especially true for the three returning Grand Marshals for this year’s event, singer Ronnie McDowell, NBA All-Star Corey Brewer – playoffs pending – and “Duck Dynasty’s” Mountain Man Tim Guraedy, all from Portland.
“It’s just a great way for everybody to come together,” Daughtry says. “You have so many different organizations that help to make it possible. The high school cheerleaders put on the pageant, the athletics department does our 5K, you’ve got the Rotary club that does the pancake breakfast, the Lion’s Club handles the vendors. There are so many different people working together just to try to make something great for the visitors and the people in Portland that are coming to the festival.”
On the day of the festival there will be plenty of vendors, a parade, a free Ronnie McDowell concert and fireworks immediately following the show.
“It’s definitely a community effort to pull it off,” Daughtry says. “This year we’ve already had calls from people in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Alabama, all coming from out of town just because they love strawberries, or they love Ronnie McDowell. Fingers crossed for more good weather this year.”
2016 Middle Tennessee Strawberry Festival
“There’s No Place Like Home”
May 10-14: Carnival
May 10: Annual Strawberry Golf Tournament
May 12: Music on Main free concert
May 14: Rotary Pancake Breakfast, 7-11 a.m.; Strawberry Stride 5K race and ½ mile Fun Run, 8 a.m.; Kid Town USA play area and Strawberry Jam live music, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Game Stage 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Parade, 4 p.m.; Ronnie McDowell free concert, 7 p.m.; Fireworks, 9:30 p.m.