By Jeanne Sager
LIVINGSTON MANOR July 8, 2003 Hometown traditions, a long parade, fruit drinks and chocolate-covered goodies whats more American than a strawberry festival?
Nothing, if you ask folks in Livingston Manor.
The hamlet celebrated July 4th in style with the 15th Annual Strawberry Festival Saturday, treating visitors to a feast for the eyes and the tummy.
The annual event started out as a way to raise money for local churches, said organizer Shirley Fulton.
We wanted to bring something into town, and the churches needed something for fundraising, she recalled. If it wasnt for the churches, it wouldnt have been done.
But why a strawberry festival?
Were right into July, right into strawberry season, Fulton noted. We started out selling flats of strawberries, then we got daiquiris and strawberry shortcake and now theres sausage and peppers and chicken wraps.
After a childrens teddy bear stroller parade down Main Street, Waterwheel Junction filled Saturday with vendors from across the region folks hawking wares from A to Z and local organizations offering up face painting for the kids and delicious delicacies from the baked goods tables.
The members of the Livingston Manor Presbyterian Church have been selling quarts of strawberries since the beginning, adding hot dogs as a side dish if folks are hungry for typical fair fare.
We like to support the community, explained Deacon Ralph Bressler. You need strawberries to have a strawberry festival.
During the summer, he added, church attendance drops with folks going on vacation and visitors coming in so this is one way for the parishioners to get together and still make their mark on the community.
Julie Diescher and Jessica Miller spent hours dipping small, large and jumbo strawberries in fresh chocolate and blending up virgin strawberry daiquiris to quench the crowds thirst for the red berries.
It took a lot less time this year, Diescher said. We learned from last year.
The women decided to set up their booth to bring an added something to the towns seminal event.
Its a lot of fun, Diescher said. I like the whole idea of a strawberry festival.
Rex McAdams had the same idea only he was on the other side of the booth.
Sitting at one of the picnic tables scattered throughout Waterwheel Junction, the 71-year Livingston Manor resident couldnt get enough of some fresh strawberry shortcake.
Im enjoying myself, he said with a grin.
And so were hundreds of other folks natives and visitors alike.
Its a time to get together, Fulton said. Most people will do anything to support the churches, and you get to see a lot of people.
We get the same people coming back year after year.