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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Church Fest a Berry Fine Time

Church Fest a Berry Fine Time:
First Presbyterian Church hosts Strawberry Fest fundraiser
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)

Fairfield, CT – A tradition that started over 65 years ago and celebrated the first harvest of local strawberries, today still showcases the coveted berry but brings a whole lot more to the table as well.

Held midday Saturday, the annual Strawberry Fest, hosted by First Presbyterian Church at 2475 Easton Turnpike, offered strawberry shortcake, strawberry-themed handcrafted items and a range of other goods including jewelry, baked goods, plants, books, hamburgers and even a car wash.

Event chairperson Pam Ales, president of the church’s Women’s Association, said the event had been done more years than most can remember. “It’s an annual fundraiser for our missions,” she said. “There are different organizations that we support including Habitats for Humanity, the Salvation Army, Bridgeport Rescue Mission and many others. This is our prime fundraiser, attracting hundreds of people.”

Long-time parishioner Elaine Brown said that while early on the event marked the first strawberry harvest, “help got harder to find to pick them. So we started buying them from the store, which is also cheaper this early in the month.”

Brown added, “This church was originally on Myrtle and State in Bridgeport and when I-95 came through, it was relocated to its current site. But the Fest has been going on since the mid-40s.”

Betty McPherson, Women’s Association Treasurer, said the target is to raise about $2,000 on average from the Fest, “all of which goes to our missions.”

While the berries may now be store-bought, a couple of things haven’t changed: the whipped cream and shortcake are handmade. “This year, we made 240 shortcake squares and several gallons of whipped cream, to accompany around 90 quarts of berries,” said Ales.

Flagging down passing drivers along Easton Turnpike to steer them to the car wash feature, Valerie Boczar, 13, with friend Tamara Castro, 16, said they were “seeking to raise funds for an upcoming church youth group trip to Newark, NJ, to help out neighbors in need.”

Inside the church, John Sembrot, a parishioner from Trumbull, was busy raising funds by selling Mexican sterling silver jewelry. “I used to be a jewelry wholesaler and disappeared in Mexico for three weeks, much to the dismay of my then-fiancee,” he said. “I gave up the trade to marry her. This is leftover inventory.”

Next door to Sembrot was more jewelry, including earrings, pins, necklaces, chains and bracelets of all makes and models. Treasurer McPherson manned the display, saying, “We’re not selling the crown jewels, but some nice quality pieces anyone would be proud to have.”

Attendees were pleased with the array of goods and happy to be present. “I’ve been doing this for seven years,” said Michele Prisco. “This was my first stop in my then-new town. Now it’s a tradition and great way to support the church.”

Fellow attendee Sharon Tobin’s main reason to attend was to gobble up the shortcake. “I’ve come other years and look forward to it,” she said.

Westporter Karen Morin came for the shortcake, too, saying, “It’s delicious.” She added, “We come every year for this, looking out for their ad in the newspaper.”