It’s About Time column: Strawberry Days fun facts
June 8, 2018
Summer wouldn't be the same without the signature event Glenwood Springs is known for, and it's almost here. June 15 to 17 is about a week away.
Paonia has great wineries, Palisade juicy peaches, Rocky Ford mouthwatering cantaloupes — and we have the oldest continuously held civic celebration west of the Mississippi, Strawberry Days.
Here are a few facts about the event you may not know, from the archives of the Frontier Museum:
It was started in 1898 by the Tri-County Farmer's Union.
The 1898 inaugural event included an open invitation to everyone to attend the free Grand Ball at the opera house, occupied by the Eagles until recently.
The second year of the festival involved serving 3,000 dishes of berries covered with 42 gallons of cream, which "was not quite enough to irrigate all of the dishes of berries," according to the June 29, 1899, Avalanche Echo.
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An estimated 6,000 people came to Glenwood Springs to enjoy the 1905 festivities.
In 1907, 450 large homemade cakes were baked to go along with the berries.
Gov. John Shafroth and his wife attended to Strawberry Day in 1912.
The 1916 event provided free swimming at the Hot Springs Pool from 2 to 4 p.m. Due to the scarcity and small size of locally grown strawberries, berries were shipped from Los Angeles at the cost of $1,000.
The annual parade was called off when "members of the city council, chamber of commerce and returned soldiers, who were to have made up the parade, preferred to mix up with the crowd and thus enjoy themselves." (Glenwood Post, June 28, 1919)
The first Strawberry Day rodeo was in 1922, and the last in 2008.
In 1927, Chicago's Diamond Jack Alterie's proclamation making himself grand marshall of the Strawberry Day Parade was thwarted by Chairman Carl Fulghum's official notice that Diamond Jack would not lead the parade. Cost for the festival that year was $4,120.69.
World War II delayed the event until the war was over.
The 1968 queen was crowned by the 1913 Strawberry Days Queen.
In 1991 the theme "Celebrate the Wild" honored the centennial of the White River National Forest.
This year marks the 121st year of the festival.
Originally the strawberries served at the event were from the Rifle and New Castle areas.
For history hounds, who can tell me when Strawberry Day switched to Strawberry Days?
I have fond memories of Strawberry Days from 34 years of living in the valley. Though they didn't win, I was proud when daughters Shandra and Amber entered the Miss Strawberry Days Queen contest when they lived in Glenwood Springs.
Participating in a few of the Strawberry Shortcut 5K and 10K races in the 1990s was fun for me.
It was a privilege to be on the Grand Marshall float with other emergency workers and firefighters honored for our involvement on the Coal Seam Fire in 2002.
Grand marshalls for this year's parade are Marianne Virgili and her husband, John. That seems rather appropriate since Marianne was the chamber CEO for 30 years before retiring last year. That's a lot of time spent overseeing Strawberry Days.
This year the tradition of free strawberries and ice cream will continue, thanks to Roaring Fork Sotheby's and Safeway. The Kiwanis Club will serve them at Sayre Park after the 10 a.m. Saturday parade, and they'll serve until they run out of food. Don't miss out.
The carnival that usually accompanies Strawberry Days is absent this year. Angie Anderson, president and CEO of Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association said, "While we know the carnival will be missed, we're excited to offer a wide variety of fun entertainment and activities at Sayre Park."
Have fun making your own memories this year by catching all the venues of the 2018 festival.
Bill Kight is the executive director of the Glenwood Springs Historical Society and writes a monthly column about history.