Inaugural Alabama Strawberry Festival a sweet success

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Crowds flocked to the second day of the inaugural Alabama Strawberry Festival over the weekend of May 3-4. (Katie Spicer)

CULLMAN, Ala. – One quick zip through the center of Cullman over the weekend, and anyone should have been able to tell that something big was happening. Traffic was creeping down U.S. Highway 31 on Friday and Saturday, almost every car searching for a parking spot within walking distance of the Alabama Strawberry Festival. With over 40,000 visitors over the span of the weekend, the area was quite busy and congested with festivalgoers and strawberry lovers alike. 

“With a record-crushing attendance of nearly 45,000 people, this year’s Alabama Strawberry Festival has surpassed all expectations. The overwhelming turnout is a testament to the festival’s growing popularity and the enthusiasm of our attendees,” said Cullman Parks, Recreation & Sports Tourism Executive Director Nathan Anderson.

The two-day festival was held at Depot Park and spread throughout the Warehouse District, and even enveloped a portion of Second Avenue around Cullman City Hall. Hordes of vendors flocked to the festival to sell and share their goods to the. Farmers and growers from the region also jumped in to get a piece of the strawberry action. Festhalle Farmers Market stayed open during the event, allowing tourists and residents alike to purchase fresh, locally grown produce. Strawberries were obviously the largest seller at the market, with the last bucket of berries going out the door at 3:12 p.m. Saturday, sold by Walnut Grove’s Umphrey Farm, before multiple berry farmers called for reinforcements to help replenish the berry reserves.

Festhalle Farmers Market Manager Michael Graveman said, “We sold a record amount of strawberries, nearly 1,500 more gallons than any previous year. This demonstrates the dedication of our farmers and the increasing demand for fresh, quality strawberries. We are so thankful for all of our farmers and their commitment to meeting the growing demand of the festival.”

Carnival rides allowed children of all ages (yes, even the grown-up ones) to swirl and shout at the tops of their lungs on the thrill rides. Depot Park was transformed into a sleek venue with furniture and seating to accommodate the massive stage that housed the weekend’s big-name performers. 

Day one of the festival was full of food, shopping and sunshine, with the festival opening at 9 a.m. and running until 11 p.m., providing a full day of fun and entertainment.

Day two of the festival saw attendees in the festival’s competitions; this year, with the expanded timeframe and venue, the baking, eating and drinking competitions, as well as the Puppy Pawgeant, were all held at the Wallace State Community College sponsored Fresh Picks Stage near the Festhalle. 

The beginning competitions were all food and beverage related; the strawberry baking contest was packed with delicious strawberry goods baked from scratch. And adults and children both got the chance to compete in some fast fun – a berry drink (a nice, lukewarm strawberry Fanta) chuggin’ contest, a fresh strawberry eating contest and a pie eating contest were all held in rapid succession to entertain the “berry” big crowd. The Fresh Picks Stage also saw the furriest attendees in the Puppy Pawgeant, with three divisions based on size. There were dogs as small as 3 pounds all the way up to Hector, a more than 120-pound Mastiff, who was celebrating his birthday and festively dressed as a sweet, swollen strawberry. 

The late spring day was hot and sunny, lending the perfect blue sky as a backdrop for the daytime performers: Jesse Roper, Cousin Curtiss, Kasey Tyndall and Eric Hutchinson, and ensuring a cool, comfortable atmosphere for Easton Corbin and Eli Young Band, the acts that performed for the festival crowd on Saturday night. 

“It goes without saying that the success of the Alabama Strawberry Festival is not just measured in numbers, but in the dedication and teamwork of each and every individual involved. From our hardworking team members to the collaboration with other City departments and the unwavering support of our vendors, this collaborative achievement is what makes Cullman such a special place,” shared Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs.

Cullman Parks, Recreation & Sports Tourism Events Coordinator Kelly Pulliam said, “We also extend our heartfelt gratitude to our sponsors whose generous support has been instrumental in making this event possible, showcasing the spirit of unity and partnership that defines our festival.”

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