Inside the Chamber column: It’s the time of year to think about strawberries | PostIndependent.com

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Inside the Chamber column: It’s the time of year to think about strawberries

I grew up on my grandparent's farm in northeastern Pennsylvania. Only those who grew up in the northeast may know this but PA is slated as the "Snack Food Capital of the World." Although, I personally like to refer to Pennsylvania as the "Dairy Capital of the World" because dairy is one of Pa's fastest-growing sectors. This is in part due to the technical innovations on many of the farms, but it was nothing like that when I was growing up. We did not have all that technology on our farm, and even if it was available I doubt my grandparents would have used it. We did everything by hand, and that was the way we liked it. During summer break from school one of my favorite memories of being at the farm is sitting in the garden with my sisters and Gammy picking the red, ripe, sugary strawberries that we grew in the garden.

Now that I live in Glenwood Springs and our summer festival is about strawberries I guess this is where my love for Miss Strawberry Days and the overall event comes in to play. I am so lucky to have been given the opportunity to work at the organization that actually manages the festival. Every year, beginning in January, I embark upon the monthly duties that prepare us for this portion of the Strawberry Days Festival. Even though June is six months away the times goes by so quickly, and there is a lot of preparation involved. We want Miss Strawberry Days to be a very special event for all of the interested students in the Re-1 and Re-2 school districts. Some have dreamed of participating since they were little girls, and some are second- or even third-generation candidates.

What is Miss Strawberry Days all about? Miss Strawberry Days has evolved over the years to keep up with current times. What is now a scholarship competition used to be a beauty pageant where contestants modeled bathing suits at the Glenwood Hot Springs. Nowadays, the beauty pageant portion is a fashion show. The show has the contestants modeling three different outfits which are the latest spring/summer fashions from local boutiques, their own creation relative to the current theme (this year's theme is "1967 – 2017: 50 Years of Peace, Love and Learning with CMC") and the bathing suit portion. There is also an entire day devoted to interviews with the judges, a volunteer day, and much more involved.

Miss Strawberry Days is not a beauty pageant or a popularity contest. While the winning contestants earn substantial scholarships, they are not judged on academics. Miss Strawberry Days is judged on personality, how she connects with others, and her ability to work with and motivate a group.

Miss Strawberry Days should be a true ambassador for Glenwood Springs, having contributed to her school and community. Through a fun and interactive judging process, judges who are new to the community or have no special interest select the best possible representative of Glenwood Springs.

The qualifications to participate are:

• Being a resident of Re-1 or Re-2 school districts.

• Age 16-20 by May 31, 2017.

• Plan on attending some type of continuing education in the next two years.

All interested girls from Re-1 and Re-2 school districts are invited to join us at our upcoming informational meeting. The meeting is from 6-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 18, at Bighorn Toyota. If you are unable to go to the meeting contact Joni Bates at 970-945-1514 for a Miss Strawberry Days contestant packet.

The entire event would not run as smoothly as it does if not for all of the volunteers/sponsors. The co-chairs that have assisted with the event for many years, Jennifer Rose at Bighorn Toyota and Janelle Rhoton at The Property Shop are in charge of scheduling much of the event. They work with the contestants in many different aspects, engage a nonprofit where the contestants donate their time for the volunteer day, and ensure the contestants get off in the parade without any glitches. Bighorn Toyota sponsors the scholarships and has done so for many years. The Glenwood Hot Springs sponsors the fashion show portion of the event and generously donates the bathing suits to the contestants. Ron Milhorn, KMTS, emcees the event at the fashion show and final crowning. We also have six different members of the community each year that donate their time as judges.

In 2016 there were 12 local students that participated. The 2016 Miss Strawberry Days and her court were as follows: Miss Strawberry Days — Abby Kruse $3,000 scholarship; 1st Runner-up — Paige Harlow $2,500 scholarship; 2nd Runner-up — Katie Bianco $2,000 scholarship; and Miss Congeniality Lily Orben, $500.

John Lennon from the Beatles wrote "Strawberry Fields [are] Forever" so, please join us at our Strawberry Field (Sayre, Strawberry Park) June 16-18. For a complete schedule of events go to strawberrydays.com.

Joni Bates, IOM is the vice president of membership development at the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. Please contact her at 970-945-1514 or joni@glenwoodchamber.com.