a warm and breezy blue-skied weekend, juicy chocolate-dipped strawberries, old-timey lemonade stands, and a collective sigh
Last year the city’s Strawberry Festival was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The same thing happened this year as well, except the festival board passed an exception to make a smaller, more intimate community celebration called the Strawberry Jam.
If you’ve never been to Troy, Ohio, it’s mostly rural with a quaint but busy downtown. At its center is a large round-about with a fountain smack dab in the middle. Boutique shops and trendy restaurants keep the square buzzing with activity. There’s a strong community vibe to the town, and their annual Strawberry Festival has undoubtedly contributed to that friendly energy.
In a typical pandemic-free year, the Troy Strawberry Festival brings the square to a lively and crowded celebration of the beloved fruit. Folks dress up like the big berry, streets bear strawberry murals, and the city’s center fountain gushes a juicy red.
One couldn’t argue this year was different. I found no giant strawberries walking around. Those murals have now faded to pink from two years back. And the fountain bubbled with clear water all weekend. Still, the energy was there and something even perhaps more special.
All those pink berries we passed up the week prior had undoubtedly ripened in time for the weekend festivities. The iconic strawberry donut made its appearance, along with strawberry lemonade, strawberry brats, strawberry shortcake … kettle corn … pop tarts … And my personal favorite, chocolate-covered strawberries.
Friday night started slow. But as the sun lowered, the more the crowd thickened. Music provided by Jerry Mullins set a chill vibe with bluesy songs like “I Drink Alone” and the nostalgic favorite “American Pie.” Smoke, hazy in the low sun, poured out from a giant grill marking up some behemoth pork chops and filled the air with a tasty smell. Strawberry lemonade stands selling what they call “shake-ups” stood on various corners and remained busy with thirsty patrons.
It was a calm, peaceful atmosphere. After walking around a bit, I got a sense we were all in a dream-like state over being around each other again, outside of our bubbles, so to speak, and seeing more to a face than eyes alone. After all, it’d just been a few days since Gov. Dewine lifted Ohio’s mask mandate.
Saturday ramped up a bit more, with a crowd busier than the night before and strawberry-themed stilt walkers gracing the roundabout. The lines grew longer while spirited music continued in the square. Yet, people still gave each other space. There was no rushing around, only strolling. It was a different vibe from the festivals of yesteryear. Something similar to what I’d experienced while picking strawberries. In a word, I’d say it was appreciation.