Strawberry Festival returns this weekend

Vashon’s largest party, the Strawberry Festival, will begin this Friday and last throughout the weekend, with standard favorites as well as new features.

The festival, put on by the Vashon Maury Island Chamber of Commerce, includes parades, vendor booths, abundant music, and fun for kids, among many other activities. It draws some 30,000 people to the heart of town, and in recent years, organizers have increasingly worked to showcase the island’s offerings and style. Among the additions this year are an enclave of artists in the Village Green, a beverage garden that offers only local drinks and an increased focus on reducing waste. The Kids Fun Zone will be set up at the Vashon Theatre again — part of the reinvented youth activities of recent years, and a cute dog contest is also in the works.

Organizing the event takes months, and while he was focusing on myriad details last week, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jim Marsh expressed enthusiasm for the event and the spirit many bring to it.

“Festival feels like a holiday on Vashon,” he said. “I am excited by the way people come to and enjoy it.”

The island is known for its creativity, and Marsh said he always wants artists to be featured in the celebration.

“That’s really what we aim for, is to have it be something that our local artists can get something out of when it’s time for festival.”

In the past, artists set up in Ober Park, but Marsh said that once the library was renovated, the area was no longer conducive to their needs.

For this year’s Strawberry Festival, the chamber has recruited off-island artists connected with recent area exhibitions, inviting them to Vashon to show their work.

“We wanted to support locals and bring in like-minded art and craft people. Art, like ideas and conversation, is good when you have a mix of people,” said Marsh.

The Chamber has also been working with Gather Vashon to help promote the sale of specialized and alternative art in the Village Green.

Gather, in partnership with Vashon Island Visual Artists (VIVA), is assisting the Chamber by selecting artists not displaying their work in booths to create a local artist marketplace during the festival. The Village Green, said Marsh, will be “chock full of local art” with everything Gather and VIVA curate there.

The Beer Garden, a longtime favorite of the festival, is changing a bit this year and will feature local beverages from three Vashon breweries, two cideries and two wineries. Beer from two off-island craft breweries will also be offered.

“We think if you are coming to Vashon, you want to taste what is local,” Marsh said.

Vashon is also known as an animal-loving community, and this festival includes a cute pooch contest, complete with title and prizes, sponsored by island realtor Connie Sorenson and veterinarian Teri Byrd. Post a cute photo of your pooch with #cutestpoochatfestival on Instagram. To be entered into the contest, follow both @VashonIslandLiving and @4PAWSVeterinaryClinic.

Festival-goers will also find an increased focus on reducing waste, thanks to Zero Waste Vashon and an array of volunteers.

Last year, the festival was able to reduce its trash from two 20-yard containers, down to one. This year, Zero Waste Vashon wants to improve on that and will set up containers for waste, mixed recyclables and food. Islander Marie Browne is one of those helping to reduce waste; in connection with Granny’s Attic, she will provide non-disposable utensils to food vendors on Saturday.

These efforts stem from people’s passions and the actions they take accordingly, for which Marsh said he is happy and grateful.

In recent years, kids’ activities have varied, but they will be back again this year at the Vashon Theatre parking lot, including some rides and bounce houses. A climbing wall is coming too. Nearby, a parents-only beer garden at the theater will make a return, where adults may relax and socialize.

“We’re responding to what people said they liked,” said Marsh.

For a complete festival guide, including road closures and shuttle buses; favorite traditions, such as the Bill Burby race, grand parade, classic car parade and a music schedule, see the Strawberry Festival guide in this issue of the paper.

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