Chassell residents clean berries in preparing for festival

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Al Virenius and Judith Rupley of Chassell are seen enjoying the labor during preparation of strawberries for the Strawberry Festival.

HOUGHTON — The smell of freshly cut strawberries was in the air Thursay night at Chassell’s Centennial Park Pavilion, as dozens of residents, carving knifes in hand, helped prepare the berries for the Lions Club booth at the Strawberry Festival.

About 1,200 quarts of berries from three local farms are prepared, enough for 3,600 strawberry shortcakes, said Dan Crane, a member of the Chassell Lions Club and owner of the Crane Berry Farm.

Berries will also be on sale at the festival by the quart.

Though cool weather led to a late start for the season, the berry crop delivered enough for the festival, Crane said.

The festival, now in its 69th year, is believed to be the oldest continuously operating festival in Michigan, Crane said.

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette From left, Amber Tuttle of Hancock and Nancy Birondo of Houghton cut strawberries for the Lions Club’s strawberry shortcakes Thursday in Chassell in advance of the Strawberry Festival.

“It’s a great community event,” he said. “It’s something we’re very proud of as Lions members.”

Jacey Sleeman, 9, of Chassell, and Alexa Coble, 8, of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, were among the volunteers hauling out trays of uncut berries to the work tables.

Sleeman is in her fifth year volunteering with the festival.

“I like handing them out,” she said.

Al Virenius and Judy Rupley, both of Chassell, wouldn’t miss it.

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette This particularly large strawberry was among the 1,200 quarts being prepared Thursday for the Chassell Lions Club’s strawberry shortcakes this weekend.

“The camaraderie in here — everybody knows everybody,” Rupley said. “You can’t walk from there to there without talking to 10 people.”

Rupley also worked on the Lions float for Saturday’s parade.

“It’s not beautiful, but it’s done,” she said.

The festival opened Friday at 9 a.m. with food, including the strawberry shortcake. The arts and crafts opened at 10 a.m., including a record 60 vendors, Crane said.

Events Friday night include the children’s parade at 6 p.m., the Strawberry Queen competition and strawberry auction at 7 p.m. and the dance at the Chassell Veterans of Foreign Wars post at 9 p.m.