Copper Country celebrates 70th Strawberry Festival

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette A Volkswagon Beetle dressed to resemble a strawberry moves along as part of the Strawberry Festival parade Saturday.

CHASSELL — In the week before the Copper Country Strawberry Festival, Lions Club director Lois Berg did something unexpected.

She made strawberry shortcake, at home, with store-bought berries from California.

“It’s not the same,” she said. “Our local berries have a certain tang to them that the store berries don’t. And they’re just sweeter, I think.”

The sweeter, tangier berries went from the kitchen to tables to bellies Saturday as the Lions Club conducted the second and final day of the 70th annual festival.

The biggest attraction Saturday was the morning parade, in which trucks, floats, skaters, bicyclists and more proceeded down U.S. 41, waving and tossing candy to the crowd.

Afterward, much of the crowd poured into Centennial Park for vendors, activities, lunch and the local strawberry shortcake.

The June 17 flooding didn’t derail the strawberry harvest, Berg said. The Lions Club had the customary 1,200 quarts to clean at the pavilion Thursday night. They yielded about 3,500 shortcakes, which sell out annually.

“People come from all over the country,” she said. “For some people, this is home, and it’s a tradition.”

That was true for Rachel Laitala Yates, a native who was in town visiting from Mooresville, N.C.

“It’s good to see old friends and see the floats in the parade and everyone enjoying each other’s company, and the community all getting together,” she said.

The reunion feeling extends to the merchants. Danielson’s Sugarbush, a maple syrup company near Nisula, has been coming to the festival for 17 years, almost as long as the company’s existed.

“We’ve got a lot of repeat people,” said owner Mark Danielson. “You can’t miss one because the people are looking for us.”

Someone once asked Berg why the Lions Club does the festival. It keeps the tradition alive: both of the area’s strawberry heritage and the festival.

Current president Barb Worrall’s father was a past Lions Club president. And Berg’s mother also worked at the festival.

“A lot of us grew up here, moved away, came back,” she said. “For a lot of us, it’s just tradition, to keep it going.”