For over 40 years the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival has been attracting both young and old to its annual celebration of our legendary delicacy – the plump, juicy, sweet, Ponchatoula Strawberry. The Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival has provided a venue as the largest fund-raiser for non-profit and charitable organizations since the early 70s. The festival prides itself as being one of the only festivals in which non-profit organizations are the only vendors on the official festival grounds.
The Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival Board was organized in 1971 and started planning for the first festival to be held in April of 1972. The first festival was co-sponsored by the Ponchatoula Jaycees and the Ponchatoula Chamber of Commerce from which both organizations provided three members to serve on the festival board. The intent of this committee was to host a festival that not only provided an opportunity for local charitable organizations to raise money for their clubs, but it was also a way to honor all of the hard working local strawberry farmers and promote their industry. The committee and many other interested volunteers worked diligently for months planning the first festival.
The location of the festival comprised of the first block of North 6th Street and only had 11 booths. This two-day event started off with a baseball game between Southeastern Louisiana University and Wisconsin State. Later that day the first annual parade made its way through Ponchatoula with 65 units from all over the state. Estimated attendance for the weekend of the first Strawberry Festival was 15,000.
From the Strawberry Festival’s humble beginning; it has “blossomed” into a Louisiana celebration second only to Mardi Gras in its magnitude. We are the second largest free festival in the state. This festival has grown from a local block fair to a regional must-do, must-see, event. Our festival is so popular that organizers estimate approximately 300,000 visitors attended the 2010 festival and with comparable numbers in 2011.Visitors pump about $33 million into the local economy yet it still delivers an intimate, small-town experience.
Today, the annual festival is organized by the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival Board, Inc. The board is comprised of a chairperson, chairperson-elect, treasurer, secretary, parliamentarian, public relations chair, and other essential positions. Decisions of the festival board are the responsibility of the 14 voting board members who represent the following organizations: Ponchatoula Chamber of Commerce, Ponchatoula Jaycees, Ponchatoula Rotary Club, Ponchatoula Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus, Ponchatoula Dixie Youth and the American Legion. The Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival board is a proud member of the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals.
Ponchatoula is the “Strawberry Capital of the World”. Their delicious strawberries are available from February to May and sometimes later. In 2001 the Louisiana Legislature selected the strawberry as the state fruit. The Annual Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival is always held the second weekend of April every year.
The event, which begins Friday night and runs through Sunday, offers many attractions that include bands, midway rides, strawberry eating contests, sack races, egg tosses, dozens of food booths, Strawberry Royalty, a parade and many more treats. Guests can tickle their taste buds with a variety of strawberry treats ranging from strawberry shortcake, strawberry pies, chocolate-covered strawberries, fried strawberries, strawberry beignets and even strawberry snowballs and ice cream.
Although the whole town joins in on the celebration, the actual official Strawberry Festival grounds, and the heart of the excitement can be found in Memorial Park located exactly two blocks north of main street in town. All booths on the official Festival grounds are owned and operated only by non-profit clubs, schools, churches and community service organizations. No food item sold within the parameters of Memorial Park grounds is priced over $10. These organizations depend heavily on the income generated from this annual festival to fund their service programs throughout the year.
Strawberry farmers can be found Festival weekend all throughout the town of Ponchatoula selling flats of their sweet and delicious locally grown berries. Peak harvest time for Ponchatoula strawberries is late March through early April, giving reason why the Festival is always held the second full weekend in April.
I am David Atkins, Chairman of the 45th annual Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival. On behalf of myself, my wife Christie, and our children Colleen, Blair, and Bradley, We would like to welcome you to the festival. I have been on the Strawberry Festival Board for seven years. I hope you will enjoy your stay in our beautiful town this weekend and enjoy some of our great strawberries from around the local area. If there is anything I can do to make your stay better, please find myself or one of our great hard working board members and let us know how we can be of any assistance.
As always, I hope you have a "Berry" Good Time!!!
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