Tahlequah Daily Press

May 13, 2014

Strawberry Festival draws crowd in Stilwell

By RENEE FITE
Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — For 67 years, the community of Stilwell has celebrated spring, and Mother’s Day weekend, with a Strawberry Festival.

Saturday the weather was perfect for the longest-running, continuous festival in Oklahoma.

From the courthouse square, people could be seen in all four directions, visiting, eating giant turkey legs, barbecue, funnel cakes and Indian tacos, and milling about vendor booths. Under the shade trees, clusters of families sat in lawn chairs watching the activities on stage and around them. Many awaited the strawberry judging and auction.

A new vendor was making a hit with some youth, who bounced as they fell off a mechanical bull and jumped up eager to try again.

“I haven’t done this before, but I will do it again,” said Payton Roy, 7. “It’s fun when you almost fall off.”

Families drive from out of state to attend the event. Lincoln, Arkansas is a far drive for Kagney and Seth West, parents of Payton and Mikey Roy.

“We came to visit my husband’s grandmother and her niece,” said Kagney. “I like the music and all the little booths.”

It was the first time for the family to attend.

“My grandma has family here, they come every year, and it sounded like fun,” said Seth. “We just got here, but there’s a lot going on.”

Mayor Ronnie Trentham was thrilled with the turnout.

“It’s a fantastic day,” said Trentham. “And it’s been great leading up to it. For the Big Event the previous weekend, one of the clubs cleaned up downtown. We were probably more ready than we’ve ever been. The berries are beautiful and taste good. It’s a pretty good day for us.”

Trentham was in charge of pulling the Kiwanis float in the parade, so he didn’t see all 80 entries.

“This is our biggest event of the year, our time to shine. We tell people we live in God’s country and this is our day to share it,” he said.

Aurora Macaraeg, a volunteer at the Kiwanis booth, likes festivals and seeing people enjoy themselves.

“The entertainment is great, the weather perfect and the parade was really good. The floats were very well decorated,” said Macaraeg. “I like everything at this festival, especially the strawberries.”

The rock and roll music of Kinsey Sadler and her band had people up and dancing in front of the bandstand. Sheryl and John Bankel danced, as did 9-year-old Brittany Knight.

“I like the music and dancing is my talent,” said Knight.

Summer Taylor was recently crowned as queen. She likes the opportunity to be involved in all these activities and reaching out to the community as a role model to children.

“I was ecstatic and surprised when I heard I won,” said Taylor. “This is possibly one of the greatest moments of my life.”

Harold Brannon, a strawberry grower since 1956, picked up his flat, and headed toward the stage to find out if he’d won first place.

“I grow good berries for people to eat,” said Brannon. “Bet there ain’t a better berry to eat here than mine.”