South Congregational Church celebrates 95th annual Strawberry Fair
By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Thu., Jun. 13, 2013
The Rev. Al Turner of South Congregational Church on Forbes Street is not afraid to get his hands dirty to help out his congregation. And on Saturday, June 8, he had the evidence to prove it.
“Want to see my hand?” said Turner, as he held up his right hand, which was still stained red with juice from the pounds and pounds of strawberries that he helped hull for the South Congregational Church’s 95th annual Strawberry Fair. Turner was part of a group of about eight volunteers who arrived at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 8, to prep and hull nearly 240 pounds of strawberries for the annual fair.
Some of the volunteers have been hulling for 50 years, with one volunteer “well into her 80s,” said kitchen organizer Debbi Grote.
“Now I’ve never sat and hulled hundreds and hundreds of berries before, but it’s really kind of a lot of fun,” said Turner, who has hulled strawberries with the morning crew for the past two years. “And it gives me a different perspective as to what leads into the day.”
The strawberries, scooped onto biscuits with whipped cream on top, were served in a sit-down fashion in the dining room, or they were sold to-go. The 300-400 biscuits, all made from scratch, used to be made on Saturday mornings, but that made for one busy kitchen, so now they are baked on the Friday right before the fair.
At least 50 people volunteer their time for the church’s main fundraiser of the year, all coordinated this year by Maureen Miller. “It’s just so many people pulling together for what needs to happen,” said Miller.
“It’s part of church history,” added Turner. “It’s just having a great time, eating good food and just seeing smiles on people’s faces, which is nice to see in this day and age.”
Planning for the event begins around February, as Miller and the booth chairs begin to figure out the logistics of the fair. The booths are run by church members. Miller said this year they had at least 10 booths.
In addition to the strawberry shortcake – the obvious highlight of the event – the fair also features a bake sale, a boutique with handmade crafts, a raffle table, a used book sale and the chuck wagon featuring grilled foods such as hamburgers and hot dogs. The fair also includes children’s activities, Grandma’s Attic in the dining room, jewelry and a plant sale.
Laura Malin, a former strawberry fair coordinator, said this is an event for which that the whole congregation pitches in. “It’s a very family-oriented church,” said Malin. “My daughter was helping out waiting tables, my son will be out at the grill with my husband helping over there and we have other kids and teenagers helping out.” Malin added that the jewelry, tag sale items and bake sale goodies are all donated by church members.
“It’s awesome to see so many hands coming together to do the work of what it takes to put one of these things on,” added Turner. “It’s really a church community effort and we do it for the community around us, as well as the people in our church.”