Vashon’s 109th Strawberry Festival came to a close last Sunday, after a weekend full of parades, music, art, food, and fun.
The Vashon-Maury Island Chamber of Commerce puts on the annual festival; it serves as a fundraiser for the organization, which works to support island businesses throughout the year. The event relies heavily on volunteers, and on Monday morning, chamber executive director Jim Marsh said he was pleased the event went so well. He pointed to the more than 150 volunteers, who provided help with everything from the parades to the kids’ Fun Zone to garbage and recycling duty.
“The highlight for me was how many people stepped up and took part in the festival,” he said, speaking specifically of the volunteers.
Many island nonprofits also get in on the fundraising action by hosting events, staffing booths and participating in the unofficial mayor’s race. The total they brought in this year was not available by press time, but last year, collectively nonprofits raised $80,000 — more than the chamber nets from the event.
This year, Marsh said that the unofficial mayor’s race raised about $10,000 for the five organizations with candidates who ran. Goliath, the 170-pound Newfoundland on the Vashon Community Care (VCC) ticket, took the title, edging out his nearest opponent by a margin of about $500, Marsh said. At VCC, David Carleton said the organization will receive more than $3,000 from the race and will use it to support activities for residents.
Marsh added that he is always happy to see new people participate in the festival and singled out, as another highlight, the band Snuff Redux, which played Saturday night on the VARSA Youth Stage. The band’s Skyler Ford, who attended middle and high school on Vashon, was part of the island’s Sharing the Stage Program in 2010.
“You could tell he was in his element and loving it,” Marsh said. “To me, watching and knowing the backstory was awesome. Plus, they were really good.”
Snuff Redux was just one band among many that played, beginning Friday evening. Pete Welch and Allison Shirk, of Vashon Events, have coordinated the music for festival for several years. This year, there were 68 music time slots and more than 200 musicians who participated; all stages were well attended, Shirk said. She noted that she and Welch were impressed with the community’s support of the festival, including the music. She added that they are pleased that Marsh shares their vision for great music and that they are already planning on “exciting changes” for next year’s Strawberry Festival, particularly at the beverage garden.
“We will really do up that stage next year,” she said.
Each year Vashon Events bestows the Matt Eggleston Award on the musician that performs the most during the festival; Wesley Peterson won the award this year after playing 11 times.
The island’s artists this year were in the Village Green, and Marsh said that went well too, with artists in booths around the perimeter of the green and Gather Vashon in the shelter, which the business’s owners transformed with art and billowing curtains.
This year, more than half — 56 percent — of the festival booths were local, including island merchants, nonprofits, and artists. Marsh said the chamber made the change by cutting the commercial booths by 10 percent.
He said that the chamber, in an effort spearheaded by Suzan McMann, also invited off-island craftspeople who they believed islanders would appreciate. Marsh credited McMann with making the heart of festival happen, including ensuring that local people who wanted booths got them.
Marsh is well aware that not every islander is a fan of the Strawberry Festival, and he encourages feedback. He said that the chamber strives to make the festival a celebration that reflects Vashon and will be looking at every aspect of it to see if all the pieces still fit. Those who have ideas or would like to be part of the conversation are encouraged, not simply to comment on social media, but to email the chamber at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Direct communication is best. We read every email,” he said.
And there is no need to wait until next year.
“We start planning the next Strawberry Festival tomorrow,” he said.
This version of the story correctly identifies Skyler Ford as having attended school on Vashon. He is from West Seattle.