Chassell residents clean berries in preparing for 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.
“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.
“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.