GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Amanda Benson can’t imagine June passing by without a trip back home for Strawberry Days. Neither can Luke Sturges.
Even though they live on the Front Range now and have families of their own after having grown up in Glenwood Springs, the annual pilgrimage for Strawberry Days is almost as traditional as the 117-year-old festival itself.
“I can’t remember the last time I missed it,” said Sturges, the son of Dave and Linda Sturges of Glenwood Springs, who will be returning with his wife, Candace, also from Glenwood, and their two young daughters for another Strawberry homecoming this weekend.
“For me, it’s just the tradition of it all … waking up to go to the parade on Saturday, which is something we always did with the family, then to the park for some good food,” he said. “It’s just a great way to spend time with family.”
Benson said she likes it when Strawberry Days and Father’s Day coincide, which happens every few years, but not this year.
“That way we get a two-for-one deal,” said Benson, who is in town this weekend for Strawberry Days along with her husband, Jacob Benson, another Glenwood native, as well as sister Shannon and her husband Dan Gagnon.
Both families now call Fort Collins home.
“It’s a fun time to come back and be with family and relive old memories, and to start new memories and traditions,” she said, adding their 3-year-old son, Noah, hasn’t missed a Strawberry Days yet.
“He’s pretty excited for the parade, and is already talking about getting candy,” Benson said.
Her mom, Jan Smiley, said she always looks forward to Strawberry Days because she gets to see the grandchildren, including the newest additions to the family, Amanda and Jacob’s now 4-month-old twin boys.
Dad Craig Smiley has headed up the Rotary Club pancake breakfast on Sunday morning in Sayre “Strawberry” Park for several years.
“The girls always run the Strawberry Shortcut [foot race], then go over and help dad serving pancakes,” Jan Smiley said. “It’s a real family affair.”
Dave Sturges admits he likes the “grandpa time” that now comes with Strawberry Days when their son’s family comes home from Denver.
“Our 3-1/2-year-old [Sloane] always says, ‘hi Poppy … ice cream!’,” he said.
Perfect for Saturday’s free strawberries and ice cream in the park after the parade.
Joining the reunion this year will be the Sturges’ newest granddaughter, 5-month-old Leighton.
Added Luke Sturges, festival weekend is also a good time to catch up with old childhood friends. His Glenwood Springs High School class of 1998 even had its 10th-year reunion on Strawberry Days weekend in 2008.
“It seems like every year I run into someone I haven’t seen in years, and of course we get to see all our friends who still call Glenwood home,” he said.
Lorie Beattie Courier has been involved as a Strawberry Days participant and organizer dating back to when she was growing up in Glenwood Springs in the 1950s. She and husband John Courier are still involved as co-sponsors of the Strawberry Princess Celebration this weekend, even though they now live in Denver.
“How can you miss it?” asked Beattie Courier, who is looking forward to seeing her father, Lyle Beattie, in the parade as part of the co-grand marshals float celebrating the chamber’s 95th anniversary and honoring past chamber directors and board chairs.
Lyle Beattie, 90, was chairman of the chamber board in 1957.
“Strawberry Days is just such a vibrant thread in the tapestry of Glenwood,” Beattie Courier said. “It’s so much of what community is all about, the celebration, the magic, the music, the smells …
“I can’t imagine not being there,” she said.
Several of the 22 past chamber leaders who will be in the parade are also coming from out of town, making it a homecoming for them as well, current chamber director Marianne Virgili said.
Among them are David Delaplane (1962 executive director) from Denver, Georgia Bowlby (1977 executive director) and Bill Sisson (1973 board chair) from Grand Junction, Ken Kranz (2002-04 board chair) from Denver, and Dean Vogelaar Jr., son of the late Dean Vogelaar Sr. (1967-74 executive director), who is tentatively coming from Steamboat Springs.