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Macomb Township

June 18, 2013

Three-day Strawberry Festival returns to Macomb church

By Jeremy Selweski
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Jessica Sapula, of Macomb Township, holds a tray full of strawberry shortcakes during the 2012 event.

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Anyone who loves homemade food, live music, children’s entertainment, family-friendly games, classic cars, or all of the above will want to head over to St. Isidore Catholic Church this weekend for an event that’s sure to be a “berry” good time.

St. Isidore is hosting its annual Strawberry Festival June 21-23 on the church grounds, which are located at the northwest corner of 23 Mile and Romeo Plank roads. As chief festival organizer Mike Fontana pointed out, everyone in the community is invited.

“The entry is free and open to the public — you don’t have to be a parish member to attend,” he said. “It’s a terrific family event for people from anywhere and everywhere.”

Fontana noted that the Strawberry Festival has been around for more than 50 years and has evolved tremendously during that time. According to Debbie Rak, longtime secretary for St. Isidore, the festival has become a favorite summer tradition for many families in the Macomb Township area.

“It certainly has grown tremendously,” she said. “It started out as just a one-day roast beef dinner, but now it has expanded into this huge, three-day festival, with lots of things for people to do. It’s become a great community-builder, which is exactly what it was always meant to be. It really brings people together.”

As Fontana explained, the Strawberry Festival gets its name from a crucial piece of the community’s history. Decades ago, when the event was first created, the area that surrounds St. Isidore was covered with acre upon acre of strawberry fields, and members of the church used to go out and pick strawberries for the festival. Although those fields are largely gone today, the strawberry theme and moniker persist.

Fontana pointed out that the church has purchased more than 1,500 pounds of strawberries for this year’s festival. They will use that mountain of berries to make about 1,800 miniature strawberry shortcakes, as well as hundreds of strawberry sundaes, pies, shakes and alcoholic drinks.

But there’s a lot more on the menu than just fruit. Saturday night will feature an Italian dinner that includes three types of all-you-can-eat pasta, two types of salad, stuffed shells and meatballs. Sunday afternoon, meanwhile, will boast authentic Polish food such as stuffed cabbages, pierogis, smoked kielbasa and sauerkraut.

“Everything we serve is fresh, never frozen, so it’s all got that great homemade taste to it,” Fontana said. “A lot of people come here every year just for the food because they know the outstanding quality that we provide.”

If ethnic food isn’t your thing, there will also be an outdoor grill all three days cooking up classic American fare like hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages and kabobs, as well as pulled-pork sandwiches, pizza and nachos. A beer tent featuring both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages will be available all weekend long. And on Friday night, guests can create their own custom desserts at the ice cream sundae bar.

“We have a whole big table full of different toppings,” Fontana said. “We originally created that for the kids, but we’ve found that the seniors like it even more.”

When it comes to entertainment, this year’s Strawberry Festival will be jam-packed. Live music includes Steve King and the Dittilies on Friday night, Boogie Dynomite on Saturday night, and the K-Tones and 50 Amp Fuse on Sunday afternoon. There will also be a talent show on Friday night, featuring everything from singers and magicians to jugglers and gifted pets, as well as a classic car show. For adults, Friday and Saturday nights will offer a “Vegas” area equipped with casino wheels and a bingo area with seniors in mind.

To top it off, there are plenty of activities that will be available all three days, including a game tent and raffle drawings. Kids can also enjoy three mini rides, a dunk tank and entertainment from Oopsy Daisy the clown.

It all adds up to an event that organizers hope will provide something for everyone. Rak noted that the Strawberry Festival has usually been blessed with great weather, and she’s crossing her fingers that the trend will continue this year. If not, most activities will be available either indoors or under tents.

“We have a lot of regulars every year, but we’re always encouraging newcomers to come check it out,” Rak said. “If you’re looking for a great place to be for the weekend, then this is it. There’s not only a ton of things to do, but this is also a great way to meet new people from all over the community.”

Fontana stressed that he and other church volunteers are always striving to give people the best possible bang for their buck. All profits from the Strawberry Festival go to St. Isidore, and Fontana believes there’s a reason those numbers have increased every year for the past decade.

“Our festival is one of the best in southeast Michigan, both price-wise and quality-wise,” he said. “We’re always tweaking this event and trying new things based on the feedback that we receive from the public. We don’t want to repeat ourselves and keep doing the same stuff over and over again. If something bombs, we scrap it; if it’s a hit, we keep it. We’re constantly working to make this festival bigger and better than ever before.”

The 2013 Strawberry Festival will be held 5:30-11:30 p.m. June 21 and 22, and 12:30-7:30 p.m. June 23 at St. Isidore Catholic Church, 18201 23 Mile Road in Macomb Township. For more information, call (586) 286-1700 or visit www.stisidoremacomb.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Jeremy Selweski at jSelweski@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5004.