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StrawberryDays’ roots could nurture festival’s future

One of Glenwood’s most time-honored traditions – Strawberry Days – came and went last weekend. Now, I’m wondering if it’s time to take a fresh look at our old strawberry shin-dig. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for us to think outside the box, er, bun, er, strawberry carton. And before the e-mails and phone calls start pouring in, give me a chance to state my case. The first Strawberry Day was held in 1897 and developed, essentially, into a big town party to celebrate the huge strawberry harvests in New Castle and Silt. Home-grown strawberries were brought up to town, and everybody ate free berries, cake and cream brought in by local strawberry farmers, thankful for a plentiful harvest. Through the early years, locals laid down canvas tarps at 8th and Grand and live bands and orchestras played all day and into the night as people danced in the streets. Meanwhile, the Hot Springs Pool offered free admission throughout the day.The Post reported that Strawberry Day was a big money-maker for local downtown businesses and restaurants, too. Since the festival was centered downtown, people naturally frequented local shops and eateries.Fast forward to Strawberry Days 2004. Sayre Park transforms itself into Vendor City, filled primarily with out-of-town artisans and food concessionaires. Did you walk downtown – you know, down by Grand Avenue bridge – during Strawberry Days? It was pretty darn quiet. Even the building that was the theme of Strawberry Days this year – the 100th anniversary of Glenwood’s train depot – was deserted. I went down to the train station Sunday and there wasn’t a soul to be found. What about working with Amtrak to offer special train ride deals into town for Strawberry Days? During Strawberry Days’ heyday, the train depot was a mini-DIA. People streamed into Glenwood via train, then hopped off and right into downtown. It was a block party, blocks long. Over at Glenwood Springs High School this year, it was Carnival City, filled with what are known affectionately as “barf rides.” But like Vendor City at Sayre Park, Carnival City really has nothing to do with Glenwood. Vendor and Carnival City could be set up in pretty much Anytown USA and it wouldn’t really make a difference. It’s not about Glenwood. It’s about vendors, and vendors that, for the most part, are out-of-town vendors. Don’t get me wrong. I purchased a couple really cool items at vendor booths this year. And my 11-year-old stepdaughter Elizabeth spent so much time on carnival rides I thought she wouldn’t have a stomach left. But have we lost the essence of why we hold Strawberry Days every year?Obviously – yes, let’s state the obvious – Strawberry Days brings in revenue for the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. That’s good. And there’s got to be some good residual business that comes from the event, for gas stations, lodges, shops and restaurants. But what about getting back to what Glenwood is all about? Why not have a Strawberry Days that draws on the festival’s history? The region’s strawberry fields are clearly gone – they’ve been replaced by subdivisions – but how about having a contest featuring food made with strawberries? And instead of having vendors fighting with each other and threatening lawsuits against the chamber, why not let local restaurants in on Strawberry Days? What would be wrong with moving the festival closer to downtown Glenwood? I realize that closing down Grand Avenue isn’t an option (closing down a state highway doesn’t really work) but what about blocking off the downtown corridor (think Cooper and 7th streets, for example) and turning the downtown into a pedestrian festival? I’m not a carnival ride aficionado, but I understand there’s a big faction that loves getting wildly spun around. In my Strawberry Days research, I discovered that carnival rides and Strawberry Day have gone hand in hand for at least 60 years. So maybe they stay, but move them closer to town. What’s wrong with Two Rivers Park? I know there has been discussion about that in the past, but so far, Sayre Park, blocks and blocks away from downtown, continues to be Strawberry Days’ headquarters. Parts of the modern-day festival I love. The parade is all about an all-American small-town celebration, and the rodeo reflects our local western riding culture. I’ve asked a lot of questions here, maybe just to redefine why we celebrate Strawberry Days every year, and how we can bring the essence of what Glenwood Springs is, past and present. Carrie Click is a reporter at the Post Independent. In her Strawberry Days research, she discovered Strawberry Days is not the longest continuously held festival west of the Mississippi: There was no Strawberry Day in 1942! Carrie can be reached at 945-8515, ext. 518, cclick@postindependent.com.Carrie Click is a reporter at the Post Independent. In her Strawberry Days research, she discovered Strawberry Days is not the longest continuously held festival west of the Mississippi: There was no Strawberry Day in 1942! Carrie can be reached at 945-8515, ext. 518, cclick@postindependent.com.


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