Perhaps this is why over 100,000 people make it a point to visit Cedarburg for its extremely popular Strawberry Festival each year – they long for the refreshing summertime fragrance and flavor of home-grown strawberries. After all, strawberries mean summertime here in Wisconsin.
This charming, free festival has been running for 23 consecutive years, providing not only succulent strawberries, but also a multiplicity of arts and crafts, music, food, and family entertainment that’s found in the heart of Cedarburg’s historic downtown district.
Cedarburg has always been one of my favorite getaways. The city’s downtown is beautifully preserved and the 100 or more buildings offer a wonderful array of specialty stores, restaurants, spas, museums and historic inns, not to mention, a packed calendar of festivals and events. It’s no wonder why this destination beckons me back at least a few times each year.
Last autumn, Eric and I went to Cedarburg’s Wine and Harvest Festival and as you can tell we had a blast! That’s why we both were enthusiastic about spending the day at the Strawberry Festival despite still being a little jet-lagged from our flight home the day before.
After zigzagging through the residential streets surrounding the festival area, we finally found parking on one of the side streets only a few blocks away from the barricaded main stretch. As we walked along the sidewalk, we noticed an ominous blanket of clouds rolling in our direction and over all of the tents and stands and stages making up the festival grounds.
“No, Mother Nature. You will NOT spoil another event!” I shouted as I pointed toward the sky.
When we reached the edge of the festival we collided with a sea of festival-goers who were sifting through their belongings for umbrellas or wheeling their strollers to a sheltered space under a storefront awning.
Despite the potential rainstorm, Eric and I figured that since we already drove 20 minutes to get there, we might as well make the best of the dry weather while we can and not let a little rain mar our time. Thus, we moved into the flow of visitors and decided to survey the festival’s offerings.
Visibly placed at every entrance were stands selling juicy strawberries by the quart – you could smell the sweet aroma wafting all around. As we continued along Washington Avenue, we drooled over berry-filled delicacies including strawberry pie, shortcake, layered cake and cheesecake, even chocolate-covered strawberries and strawberry ice cream, slushies and lemonade.
Adults could indulge in a variety of strawberry beers and wines. Folks had the option of purchasing Cedar Creek Winery’s Strawberry Blush Wine by the glass or by the bottle, and then tucking it under their arm as they hopped from store to store.
Clearly, Cedarburg’s Strawberry Festival lived up to its name – strawberries were aplenty!
Beyond the abundance of mouth-watering strawberry goodies, there were a plethora of other food varieties to sink our teeth into. Several stands were serving typical festival fare such as charcoal grilled hamburgers, hot dogs and brats, pizza by the slice, and finger-licking popcorn.
Eric and I paused on our stroll to score a piece of chocolate covered strawberry cheesecake from an amazing bakery, followed by two reasonably priced burgers that we garnished with ketchup, mustard, onions and pickles to our liking. But, just as we were about to press on, we felt the pelts of warm rain falling down upon us. Before long, a steady downpour cleared the streets as many of us immediately sought shelter in stores and under canopies.
Due to the rain, many of the day’s amusing strawberry-themed competitions – the strawberry shortcake eating contest, strawberry bubblegum blowing contest and the strawberry bob contest – were delayed. Still, that didn’t stop most of the kids from continuing their activities at the Festival Kids Korner.
As the little children ran amuck throughout Cedar Creek Park their parents supervised them from underneath their umbrellas. The beautiful setting on the banks of Cedar Creek was chock-a-block with family oriented activities like jugglers, magicians, clowns, painting murals, pony rides, a petting zoo, inflatable bouncers and face painting, which were irresistible to the kids.
The rain only lasted a few minutes, which gave Eric and me just enough time to savor each bite of the rich strawberry cheesecake we shared beneath the US Bank canopy. As we took our last creamy bite, we were ready to hit the streets again to finish inspecting the event.
Amid the food stands was my favorite attraction: Arts on the Avenue. This is a delightful mélange of three established non-profit groups located in Historic Cedarburg – Cedarburg Cultural Center, Cedar Creek Settlement, Ozaukee Art Center – that showcase one-of-a-kind juried arts and crafts by more than 250 talented Midwest artisans. Eric and I took the time to take in the small-town ambiance as we perused each stand and found one tempting, must-have item after another. Several artists were even selling strawberry crafts and decorations!
Everything from paintings, sculptures and ceramics to jewelry, woodwork and photography that I found, could have been the perfect holiday or birthday gift for a family member or friend. Regrettably, I didn’t buy anything because I was penny-pinching after traveling lavishly in Los Angeles earlier in the week. But, I’ll be sure to keep those trinkets in the back of my mind for another time.
Providing a quaint backdrop for the arrangement of craft tents and food stands was the unique collection of 19th century stone buildings and its enticing display of specialty shops and restaurants. Moseying down Washington Avenue is always like taking a journey back 150 years. Many of the limestone and brick buildings look exactly as they did when they were first built in the 19th century. But, these buildings aren’t just a momentous marvel; they’re a giant piece of the community since they house many of the city’s businesses and shops, and are the pride of newcomers and founding families alike, explains the website.
We only had to take shelter from the rain just one more time. Still, the rainfall wasn’t enough to deter us from enjoying an enchanting June afternoon in Cedarburg. Just like years past, Cedarburg’s Strawberry Festival provided an enjoyable afternoon of tasting yummy treats and tromping through the charming city as it welcomes summer and all of its seasonal delights.
Before we left, we bought a quart of ripe and enormous strawberries from the nearby Schmit’s Berry Farm stand. On our walk back to the car we fed each other bites of the luscious fruits, catching the juice that ran down our chins with our finger tips.
I can still smell those strawberries.
Cedarburg’s Annual Strawberry Festival
Downtown Historic District
Along Washington Avenue
Cedarburg, WI 53012
Saturday, June 28 through Sunday, June 29, 2008