Ponchatoula gears up for its fiftieth Strawberry Competition after 2 years of absence


Ponchatoula, LA (WVUE) – They are saying absence makes the center larger.

From Friday, April 8 to Sunday, April 10, the Ponchatoula Strawberry Competition, one of many state’s greatest free occasions, second solely to Mardi Gras, marks its fiftieth yr after a two-year absence associated to the pandemic shutdown. Will return for

Sometimes, when it’s the pageant season in Ponchatoula, the variety of guests to town exceeds the variety of residents (7,600, in keeping with the latest census) for 3 straight days.

Ponchatoula is getting ready for the primary Strawberry Competition because the COVID-19 pandemic.(WVUE)

After being closed for 2 years in the course of the top of the coronavirus pandemic, the much-awaited pageant is making its comeback, and a way of normalcy is being restored.

“We expect record-breaking crowds this weekend,” mentioned Kim Melanchon of town’s chamber of commerce. “The draw, in fact, is our quaint little city and the truthful is behind the primary drag. You should definitely go to sixth Avenue and Memorial Park.”

Melancón mentioned non-profit organizations could be arrange across the park to promote strawberries, meals, drinks, merchandise and memorabilia to boost funds for numerous causes that profit the local people.

“The draw is actually to assist these individuals with our strawberry leases and profit the farmers in our space,” Melancon mentioned.

Whereas strawberries have been a significant money crop for Louisiana many years in the past, many of the state’s manufacturing is now concentrated in Tangipahoa and the southern elements of Livingston Parish. Because the variety of farms has dwindled in recent times, a small proportion of farms in Florida parishes nonetheless survive an trade in an space that led the nation in crop innovation.

Ponchatoula is gearing up for the first Strawberry festival since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ponchatoula is gearing up for the primary Strawberry pageant because the COVID-19 pandemic.(WVUE)

On Pine Avenue, proper within the coronary heart of town, Trey Harris is understood for 2 issues, the juiciest, greatest and most purple crawfish and strawberries at his store, Harris Seafood. Harris is a strawberry farmer who represents the trade on the state stage and has achieved a lot to maintain the traditions alive. When the pandemic shutdown first started two years in the past, Harris took the weird step of selling the berries at a time with out the pageant, the primary occasion of the harvest, and promoting his rivals’ berries at his store to go forward.

“As , we have not celebrated a pageant in two years, it is a huge deal for all of our native farmers,” Harris mentioned. “We could have loads of illustration from Livingston and Tangipahoa Parish and we wish to see this pageant as the largest pageant ever.”

Harris says the harvest will peak for this weekend’s pageant as hotter climate kicks on this week and manufacturing will gradual as chilly climate is predicted within the area after the weekend.

The return of the pageant has a ripple impact so far as enterprise is worried. Harris notes that there aren’t many farmers left and advises consumers shopping for strawberries to search for Louisiana labels in order that farmers can cowl their prices.

“To everybody within the New Orleans space and past, we want all of you,” Harris mentioned. “Purchase Louisiana Strawberries.”

Along with being often known as the “Strawberry Capital of the World”, Ponchatoula can be recognized for its vintage and reward outlets, that are frequented by locals and guests on weekends. Commerce after a pandemic and the results of Hurricane Ida have been combined elements for some, however all enterprise homeowners agree that returning the pageant offers them visibility once more.

“In some points of our enterprise we noticed earnings skyrocket in the course of the pandemic as extra locals stayed residence to buy with us,” mentioned Casey Robert, proprietor of Chalaroux, a house decor and reward store on Pine Avenue. “However the pageant is sort of a homecoming for all of us. Some individuals who have not been to Ponchatoula will come to the pageant and after they see us we have to remind them that we’re right here and we shall be prepared once you buy groceries with us.

Robert additionally mentioned that the pageant helps to remind the world that, for a small city, Ponchatoula has its personal character.

“I believe generally we’re seen as cool and quaint and a giant suburb someplace like Hammond or New Orleans,” Robert mentioned. “However the reality is that right here we now have our personal identities and traditions which are distinctive to us.”

A part of that identification is an affinity for the humanities. Not solely does town produce inventive individuals, but it surely additionally immediately impacts the native economic system as there are lots of artwork studios within the metropolis.

Ponchatoula is gearing up for the first Strawberry festival since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ponchatoula is gearing up for the primary Strawberry pageant because the COVID-19 pandemic.(WVUE)

Artist Mandy Mae Poche began her studio downtown two years in the past and is experiencing a growth in commissions because the pageant dates close to.

“I do not know what to anticipate and it is thrilling and scary on the identical time,” Poche mentioned. “I do know it is going to herald an enormous crowd and may’t wait to study this yr and what I can do with it subsequent yr.”

Like Poche, the downtown revitalization program was launched simply two years in the past and first-time director Religion Alan Peterson is navigating his first pageant yr, which is now returning.

“We have had loads of new outlets and new eating places come up within the final two years, however I actually do not know what that is going to appear like,” Peterson mentioned. “Town has been buzzing on a traditional Saturday recently and now you add particular occasions to the combo. Folks suppose the Strawberry Competition is only a park truthful, but it surely’s additionally on aspect streets and downtown.

Forward of the weekend’s fundamental occasion, the individuals of Ponchataula take satisfaction in exhibiting the world what it has to supply. From the long-lasting daiquiris comprised of scratch at Paul’s Café to the chocolate-covered berries you should buy from the window of one of many many storefronts, individuals appear able to take again a chunk of their identification and go away all worries behind. Have been have been

For extra details about the pageant and the schedule of occasions, go to the pageant’s web site right here.

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