Strawberry Days makes a splash once again
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The 114th annual Strawberry Days offered continued evidence, if any were needed, that Glenwood Springs still has its sense of community intact and going strong.Saturday kicked off with a parade that took well over an hour from start to finish, and featured everything from Western ranching themes to hot rods, Scouts to Hispanic church groups, marching percussionists to high school cheerleaders, and much, much more.The Glenwood Garden Club, celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, graced the parade with a contingent of happily mature ladies who occasionally stopped and treated the crowd to a shimmy-shammy dance number that left observers speechless.At Sayre Park, shoppers meandered along aisles and aisles of booths, supped at food vendors offering everything from ice cream and strawberries to traditional Ethiopian dishes, and listened to a day’s worth of good music.New this year, the Glenwood Idol competitions surprised even its organizers with a wealth of talent that made the judges’ jobs quite difficult.Here is a selection of observations from those who attended on Saturday:”It’s tradition,” said M.J. Derkash of Glenwood Springs, standing at the corner of North Hyland Park Drive and Grand, close to where the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church was selling baked goods and other items to raise money for the church youth group.”We’ve brought our kids here for 30 years,” she continued, greeting old friends and watching a contingent of scouts marching up the street.Judging from her historical perspective, she remarked, “I’m surprised that there aren’t more [parade watchers], but this is a pretty good turnout.””I think it’s a lot of fun,” said Glenwood Springs resident Cathy Petts of the parade and the weekend of celebration. She could only speak between shouts of encouragement and support to teenagers in the Strawberry Days parade.She was standing at the edge of Sayre Park on Grand Avenue, waiting to get a picture of her 9-year-old niece, Halie Holmes of Rifle, in the Strawberry Princess Celebration.”They were troopers,” she said of the princesses, who competed for the 2011 title on Thursday in a rain storm.”They walked out in the rain, and it was thundering and it was pouring, and they didn’t flinch,” she reported.”I didn’t even vote,” she said of the People’s Choice competition for Strawberry Queen. “I couldn’t. I know too many of the kids.”She said that for a number of years, she marched with the Scouts in the parade, but no longer.”I miss marching,” she concluded, as she dashed off to take the picture.As the last of the parade disappeared up Grand Avenue next to Sayre Park, John Bone of Glenwood Springs watched it go and said, “It was a good parade.”Bone, and his wife, Myra, were standing with their nephew, Cody Wright of Flagstaff, Ariz, and Wright’s wife, Keri and their daughters – Sophia, 6 and Emma, 2.”It was great,” added Cody Wright. ” And we had family members in the parade, so it made it a little more personal.”The family members, Bone said, included Libby Bierbaum, a Glenwood Springs High School cheerleader, and Joel Bone, who carried the Salvation Army banner.John Bone noted that, until this year, as a member of the Glenwood Hot Strings band, he typically would have been marching in the parade, too.But standing on the side and watching, he said, was “great, just great.”The Wrights said their home town has a Fourth of July parade that, according to Cody, is “very much like this,” but there is nothing like the park full of booths, bands and games to go along with it.The 2011 Strawberry Princesses made their last appearance on the FamilyFest stage Saturday morning at the Strawberry Princess Celebration. “I was a little nervous,” said Mickie Carpenter, 11, “but once I got here it was really fun.”The Strawberry Princess Celebration is a new event this year at the Strawberry Days Festival. It is a celebration, not a competition, of 40 girls between the ages of 5 and 10.After riding in the parade, they appeared wearing colorful crowns and pink Strawberry Princess T-shirts. They carried unique wands they created themselves. “Being a princess is about the beauty inside you and how kind you are and how you make a difference in the world,” event organizer Lorie Beattie Courier told the young girls.Each princess received goody bags with candy, cookies and bubbles. Their shining moments came when Courier read out brief descriptions of each girl as they were presented with certificates.”It was really fun to have the audience clapping for you,” said Mickie.Sally Barnes, a volunteer organizer for the Strawberry Princesses events, celebrated the girls by singing a rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.””I was feeling emotional and excited,” said Lyanna Nevarez, 9, of New Castle, after the celebration finished.Strawberry Days is for families, and the Mendoza family turned out to introduce the event to their toddler.While his wife held their three-year old daughter, Allison, at the curb along Grand Avenue, Roberto Mendoza looked around him and said, “It’s a nice day.”The Glenwood Springs carpenter, who was standing on the grass strip between the sidewalk and Grand, glanced around him and greeted a friend standing nearby.”I feel it’s a happy day, a party day,” he said.The Valley Dynamite All Star Cheer group performed for the first time in front of a live audience next to the FamilyFest stage on Saturday.They danced to upbeat music, performed stunts in small groups and occasionally cartwheeled across the grass.Michelle Hoffmeister, founder of the group, said, “The girls have made an amazing amount of progress.” This was the first official year for squad, but Hoffmeister hopes to grow this into something bigger. “We want to empower kids who participate and improve self-esteem and problem solving skills,” she said.”I love cheerleading,” said Tehya Vigil, 13, “We all connected with cheering and with the little kids. We have a lot of fun with each other.”The festival always draws lots of visitors to town. But Jeff Dick of Denver and Brooke Atkinson of Fort Collins were unaware that Strawberry Days was going on when they decided to come to Glenwood Springs for Dick’s birthday celebration.”I hadn’t been up here since I was a little kid,” he said, so the couple decided to come up and check out the Hot Springs and stay for a night.After hearing from a local resident about the civic celebration going on, they decided to see what it was all about.Atkinson said she expected it to be like festivals they have attended in Denver, but “this was better. I love it, tons of fun, it’s relaxing.”
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Former Rifle Bears standout turned starting running back for Western Colorado University Ty Leyba remembers it like it was yesterday.