Friends and families sat together and ate a home-cooked meal, finishing it off with a strawberry dessert, on a recent Saturday at the First Presbyterian Church of Marlboro’s annual Strawberry Festival.
The menu featured country baked chicken, potato salad, coleslaw, veggies, and a choice of strawberry shortcake or a strawberry sundae. The desserts are comprised of home-made strawberry sauce, strawberries, homemade whipped cream, and either ice cream or a shortcake. Around 150-200 people are expected each year.
All of the work done to organize and cook for the event was done by volunteers and all proceeds went to the church to help run it throughout the year. Howard Baker was the organizer of the event and has been attending since he was a child.
“We struggle with a small church, like most small churches,” Baker said. “So this is a way for us to help our budget.”
Baker couldn’t remember how long the festival has been taking place but he had an aunt, Elsie Baker, who kept diaries throughout her life. In her diaries she talks about the strawberry festival as far back as the 1930’s.
“I’ll be 83 in July, and I’ve been coming to this since I was five years old,” Paul Quimby, a Marlboro resident, said.
The festival has always been a sit-down dinner and the strawberries have always held the spotlight. Every year the church gets the strawberries from a local farmer. Originally, the festival was held to mark the start of strawberry season, but strawberries can be found in grocery stores all year long now. The tradition had been going on for so long that the purpose changed from marking the start of the season to getting the community together and supporting the church.
The Agnew family cooks the entire dinner each year, led by Robert Agnew. Agnew has been cooking for the strawberry festival since he was 10.
“I started cooking vegetables and then it turned into running the kitchen,” Agnew said.
Agnew now has his family to back him up in the kitchen. His daughters, son-in-laws and his children’s friends all volunteer to help cook.
“It’s always a fun time,” Sal Frisher, Agnew’s son-in-law, said. “There’s never a dull moment. Just join the club to help out, even if you’re not Presbyterian”
The strawberry festival is a family affair with Agnew’s team in the kitchen and Baker’s team out front. Baker greeted everyone at the front door by name, and everyone was happy to see him. His wife, Carolyn, and daughter, Marie, were in charge of dishing out the desserts.
The community was in full support of the local church during the night, and the church views this as a way to bring people together.
“I’m always looking forward to it,” Miki Simonofsky, a Marlboro resident, said. “I’ve lived here my whole life, and it’s just one of the cornerstones of the whole community.”