A few vendors have become a Strawberry Days staples | PostIndependent.com

A few vendors have become a Strawberry Days staples

Megan Webber
Post Independent intern

This year's Strawberry Days has seen faces new and old, and the Saturday rain couldn't take away the smiles.

After the parade down Grand Avenue on Saturday morning, crowds began to file into the park and line up for food and activities.

Alex Ballas, head chef of Dionysos Greek Food, said he has enjoyed the beginning of the festival and is looking forward to the rest of the weekend. Ballas is a longtime Strawberry Days attendee and said that Saturday's crowds after the parade are always heavy, but he enjoys the Glenwood vibe.

"I've built a following here," he said. "When we first came to Glenwood, nobody knew what a gyro was." He would walk around and draw fair-goers away from the greasy foods and towards a fresh, tasty sandwich.

"Our food is chef-driven," Ballas said. "I feel so honored to be here. Glenwood has some of the nicest people."

Ballas grew up in the restaurant industry in Boulder, where his father, an immigrant from Kalomata, Greece, and his mother sold Greek food in their own restaurant. Ballas attended cooking school and continued the family business, not only in the traditional restaurant style, but also by driving his food and crew around from festival to festival all over Colorado and part of Utah.

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"It's amazing. I'm grateful every day that I get to cook outdoors and listen to music," Ballas said.

Glendon Johnson, owner of Mr. Lemonaid, is celebrating his 31st year at Strawberry Days. When asked what has stood out for him so far about this year's fair, he said, "It's been partly cloudy."

In 31 years, he said Glenwood has only seen two rainy Strawberry Days festivals. Since 1976, Johnson has been making lemonade and iced tea between Maine and the Caribbean.

"Every drink I make is custom-made," he said. "I try to do the best I can for [the customers]."

Katie O'Hara Barrett, of O'Hara's Jams & Jellies, has been selling her fruity products at Strawberry Days for over 20 years.

"I had a little girl then, now I'm a grandma twice over," she said.

O'Hara and her husband Jim have been making jams and jellies in Durango for the past 34 years. They started making jelly when their fruit trees started bearing more fruit than they knew what to do with. After winning multiple blue ribbons at the La Plata County Fair, they decided to turn their hobby into a business and have been selling at fairs ever since.

O'Hara said she's glad to see Strawberry Days improving their system of composting and recycling trash at the fair. The festival expects to compost 14,000 pounds of waste this year. O'Hara said that's a great example for all of the United States.

Gelü Italian Ice from Grand Junction is a new face at Strawberry Days this year. They decided to opt out of Country Jam this year and come to Strawberry Days. Employee Jake Gooken said he's enjoyed seeing people from all different cultures come through the park.

"It's way more diverse than I've seen in Grand Junction," he said. "I like seeing all the new people and making connections."

After visiting all of these vendors and others, fair-goers on Sunday can participate in the Kiwanis Ball Race at 1 p.m. on North Highland and Blake Avenue. The Glenwood Springs Kiwanis Club will be dropping nearly 4,000 balls and giving away prizes to 21 winners. Cash prizes are $2,500 for first place, $1,000 for second place and $500 for third place. Eighteen local businesses have donated gifts as additional prizes.

Kiwanis President Sheryl Doll said they've had great sales so far and have seen great community support. And the weather is expected to cooperate Sunday as well.