Strawberry Festival draws crowd for old favorites, new twists | Slideshow

‘Goddess of Peace’ wins unofficial mayor contest

Strawberry Festival 2019

Many islanders sent us photos they took at Strawberry Festival. We included just a fraction in this week’s paper and in the slideshow above. The photographers are Jim Diers, Tom Hughes, John de Groen, Dawn Nelson, Kent Phelan and Pete Welch. We extend to them a huge thanks and hope you will enjoy the photos.

Vashon’s latest Strawberry Festival is now part of the history books, with many of those involved saying the event went well, with a blend of old favorites and new events.

The Strawberry Festival is a fundraiser for the chamber, bringing in about $30,000 of its $180,000 annual budget. But the event is also a fundraiser for island nonprofits, including those who participate in the unofficial mayor contest. This year the contest brought in $16,500 for the participating organizations. Lynanne Politte, who ran for the DOVE Project as Eirene, the Goddess of Peace, took the top honor over a field of four others. She enjoyed campaigning, she said, and the strong showing of support for DOVE’s work pleased her. She included online fundraising in her campaign, drawing in donations from friends from Seattle and even former high school classmates.

Looking ahead, she said she plans on continuing to work with DOVE and will consider other options, including those around peace.

“I am curious and excited about the possibilities,” she said.

On Monday morning, after the crowds had gone home and the main highway returned to its normal state, Chamber Executive Director Jim Marsh and events manager Jennifer Potter reflected on some festival highlights. Among their mentions was that several businesses were actively involved this year. The Ruby Brink hosted the Vashon Island Growers Association, for example, and some other restaurants, including Gravy and Island Queen, created special outdoor seating areas — which also helped stretch the festival the full length of town.

“It was embraced by people wanting to be part of it,” Marsh said.

UMO performances in Ober Park drew crowds that filled the park, Potter said, noting she was glad to have the group participate this year. Their performances were crowd pleasers, Marsh said, the oohs and aahs so loud he could hear them in his office across the street.

Potter also tipped her hat to the vendors, many of whom come back year after year. Until she began working at the chamber, she said, she did not understand the complexities many of them deal with to participate, including obtaining King County permits for food booths and contending with the lack of inexpensive sleeping accommodations.

“I want to reach out and make sure they know we value them,” she said.

Vashon Events coordinates festival music, a process Pete Welch and Allison Shirk begin each January. Bandstand Music is responsible for the staging and the sound. This year, nearly 60 acts spread across three days and seven stages. Welch noted that there were fewer music time slots this year than in years past, with one less stage and longer time slots. But, he said, almost every local band and musician that wanted to play was included and that most things went smoothly.

“I am awed by their professionalism, community spirit and quality they bring,” Potter said about both music vendors.

On Saturday night, before the street dance with the Portage Fill big band, a small group of islanders made a special presentation to Lou Engels, one of the original members of the band and the longtime proprietor of Engels Repair & Towing — an event made possible through the small town ties and online fundraising.

As islander Lauri Hennessey tells it, some months ago, Vashon artist Steffon Moody did a painting of the Engels station and posted a photo of it online. Pete Welch responded that the work belonged with Engels himself. Bill Moyer created a GoFundMe page for islanders to contribute toward purchasing the painting, and Hennessey spread the word on social media. Within two days, she said, 30 islanders had contributed enough to buy the painting. The masterminds behind the effort then decided to surprise Engels at the annual Portage Fill performance at the festival.

Reached Monday at his shop, Engels said receiving the painting came as quite a surprise.

“I was totally stunned,” he said. “My pins were knocked out from under me. I was honored to accept it in front of the band and honored to be there myself to accept it.”

Engels, who has owned his business since 1968 and has entertained “fleeting thoughts” of retirement, said the painting will hang in his home. He added that he wanted to thank the trio of presenters and all who donated to it.

“It will be a great decoration in my living room,” he said.

The festival draws about 30,000 people to the island, and with that many people comes a lot of garbage. This year, islander Diane Emerson worked to tame the trash. She set up two recycling stations and hired staff, who were joined by volunteers to assist throughout the weekend.

Few people used the stations, Emerson said, so she and others went to the trash bins, pulling out food and recyclables, then cleaned and sorted items.

“We took care of it exactly as our recycling hauler wanted,” she said.

In the end, they filled nine bins that held at least 90 gallons with recyclables people had thrown away or turned into recycling centers. Additionally, they retrieved 80 gallons of soiled paper waste and food for Emerson’s worm bins and gathered 8 gallons of food for island pigs. Emerson also had arranged for cooking oil collection from food vendors to be made into biodiesel, but she said she did not know how much was collected.

At next year’s festival, she said she will be back and is already planning on doing some things differently — and will be sure to make sure the process is visible.

“By watching us dig through the trash right there on the street, they will be reminded that recycling is important,” she said.

The supplies she and her team used at the festival are available through the chamber to help other islanders recycle at large events, and Emerson said she is happy to consult.

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