When it comes to the Strawberry Festival, there are many longtime Troy residents who would just as soon atomize it as patronize it.
Every year, you hear the same contingent of folks complaining that — much as it has for the better part of four decades — the Strawberry Festival is returning. Many of these folks actually pack up their belongings and make themselves scarce during the first weekend in June.
I am not one of those people.
I’ll admit it — I’m a bona fide Strawberry Festival addict. I love the thing. I enjoy the opportunity to get out there and see people I haven’t seen in years. It’s kind of like going to church at Christmas or Easter — you know the people there haven’t gone anywhere; you just haven’t seen them in the past year. I love the attention it brings to the town I love. I love the pageantry.
And mostly, I love pork tenderloin sandwiches and strawberry doughnuts.
That is not to say, however, that our beloved Troy Strawberry Festival is perfect. And while the festival has provided me with some of the greatest moments of my life — have I ever mentioned that before I retired from the sport, I was a two-time Strawberry Festival bed race champion? — it has provided me with a few low moments as well.
Since I’ve written reams of articles pointing out all that is good with the Strawberry Festival, in the interests of equal time and full disclosure, I thought it would be only fair to point out my personal Top Three (Bottom Three?) Low Moments in Festival History:
1) Fire the cannons: I was at the first Strawberry Festival in 1977. At the time, my late father was working in the purchasing department at the Friendly’s Ice Cream headquarters in Troy. Given that the world headquarters were located in Troy, Friendly’s had a huge presence at the first festival, dishing out thousands of Strawberry Fribble milkshakes.
You know what else was at the first Strawberry Festival? Cannons. As a part of the festival, cannons were being launched every hour or so to help celebrate. I’m sure many people thought the cannons were a grand idea. As a 4 year old who was scared of loud noises, I was not a fan. I was so petrified of loud noises — to this day, I still don’t care for them — that my parents couldn’t take me to a fireworks display until I was well into elementary school.
At that first festival, my mother took me to visit my father at the Friendly’s booth, where Dad was working, and ordered me the biggest Fribble possible. As we were walking along the levee, I had barely taken a sip when the cannons were fired. I immediately jumped in the air, spilling the entire contents of my massive Fribble all over the front of me.
I hope they never bring cannons back to the Strawberry Festival.
2) I hate a parade: One of the best parts about the now-defunct Strawberry Festival parade was the fact many of the parade participants threw out handfuls of candy to the crowd. To me, this was — by far — the best part of the festival. I would leave the parade every year with my pockets loaded down with enough candy to last me through the rest of the summer.
One year, while watching the festival, I was elated to see two gentlemen pushing wheelbarrows along the parade route.
“Look at that!” I said to my mother. “I bet they must have a ton of candy in there. They have so much they have to pass it out with shovels.”
“David,” my mother politely informed me, “those guys are following the horses in the parade. They are picking up the horse poop and putting in the wheelbarrow.”
My older brothers and sister have yet to let me live that moment down.
3) All about the trophy: It used to be that if you won an event during the festival, they brought you back on Saturday night for a trophy presentation in the Troy High School auditorium. My brothers and sister always won trophies at these competitions (I never did … but did I mention the TDN won the bed races twice?) and we had to attend this ceremony.
One year, near the end of the ceremony, storms rolled in (which they pretty much always do at some point during the festival, it seems). They made an announcement that a tornado had been spotted near Troy and those at the ceremony should remain in the high school where it was safe.
Unfortunately, my older brother Steven had already taken his Super Kids Competition trophy and headed down to the family station wagon before this announcement was made. My mother sent my father down the hill to the car to retrieve my brother and bring him back to safety.
Halfway up the hill, with a tornado and certain doom bearing down on Troy, my father noticed something was missing.
“Where’s your trophy?” he asked my brother as dark storm clouds swirled up above.
“I left it in the car,” Steven replied.
My dad made him go back and get his trophy out of the car and bring it back into the high school.
Enjoy the festival this year, Trojans. And be sure to keep your trophies safe at all times.
Troy’s very own David Fong appears on Thursdays in the Troy Daily News. Contact him at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong