One of the sweetest events in Potomac is back again — the annual Strawberry Festival held each May at the Potomac United Methodist Church — the quaint white church facing Falls Road in Potomac.
A line always forms before the doors swing open at 10 a.m. as more than 1,200 eager shoppers and hungry people hurry through to grab bargains and taste the delectable chocolate-dipped strawberries and homemade shortcake. This community event features fun for children, family fashion values, vendors with antiques and estate treasures, a bake sale, books, toys, sports equipment, flowers and more. Plan to attend on Saturday, May 18 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
“Between shopping and playing, our guests can stop to have lunch in our Strawberry Café and enjoy our chocolate-dipped strawberries and the strawberry shortcake desserts after which the festival is named.”
— Vickie Cooper, festival co-chair
Two dedicated members of the PUMC Women’s Group — Candice Siegenthaler and Vickie Cooper — are co-chairing the event for the second year. “This year we will have a larger Kids’ Games department with three rooms filled with games for the children, including a cake walk, face painting, cupcake decorating and a moon bounce,” Siegenthaler said. “The rooms open out to a huge playground for the kids to play in. We will provide fun and games (and baby-sitting) for the children while their parents shop.”
Cooper explains how it all began: “In its 23rd year, the Strawberry Festival is one of our church’s longest running traditions. On this day, many of the women, men, and children in our congregation work together to host a family-oriented day that offers a little bit of everything for people here in the local community.”
The festival was founded by PUMC member Judith Dubowy who is also the creator of the homemade shortcake with hand-whipped cream — her own secret recipe. Chocolate lovers vie for Becky Queen’s chocolate-dipped strawberries. “I use stemmed presentation berries,” she said. “Lots of people want to take them home to save for later — but I tell people to buy and eat them as quickly as possible.”
The Strawberry Festival generates $20,000 or more for Montgomery County charities, such as Manna Food Center, Stepping Stones Shelter, Montgomery Avenue Women’s Shelter, Montgomery Hospice, Reece’s Rainbow and St. Joseph’s House.
“There will be fashion bargains for the whole family, value priced items for the home, sporting items and toys, books and DVDs and a beautiful selection of plants and flowers,” Cooper said. “There will also be a silent auction featuring hundreds of exciting items and a wide array of vendors offering unique and precious items for sale. Between shopping and playing, our guests can stop to have lunch in our Strawberry Café and enjoy our chocolate-dipped strawberries and the strawberry shortcake desserts after which the festival is named.”
Many vendors will be selling one-of-a-kind items that can only be found at the festival. Hand-painted gifts, wine glasses and bird houses, pottery, hand-crafted jewelry, stained glass, bath salts and gifts, handbags, home collections, knock-off designer jewelry, stylish clothing and more will be available to entice shoppers. Fresh annuals, perennials and herbs will also be on sale — and shoppers can pick up freshly-baked goods to take home from the bake sale.
The silent auction will include such items as Redskins tickets, Ski Liberty Ski Packages, tickets to the Newseum, Strathmore, Shear Madness and a Virginia wine tour. There will be restaurant gift certificates, home décor items and more auction items to bid on.
Other popular items are the “nearly-new” women’s and children’s clothing, children’s toys and sporting goods, home decorating items, books and music.
“Potomac United Methodist Church is a tight-knit, family oriented group of people who are dedicated to being involved in the community,” Siegenthaler said. “We encourage folks to come and visit our church. The women organize this festival, but the men’s group offers lunch items for sale and helps with the parking management and the set-up and clean-up. Many of the youth of our church are involved staffing the kid’s rooms, leading the kids’ games and helping in any way they can.”
“It literally takes hundreds of volunteers from our congregation to plan and carry out the festival,” Cooper said. “It is a lot of work and the preparation begins early in the year. We do it year after year because it brings us together as a congregation, allows us to reach out to the community, and every dollar we raise goes to charities serving the needs of women and children in our local community. It’s a very worthy cause and a really fun day. We hope to see everyone there on May 18.”
Publicity Chairman Renee Antosh summed up just how wonderful a day at the Strawberry Festival will be: “Free admission, priceless fun for the entire family ... See your friends there.”