Summer, strawberries synonymous in Cape Elizabeth

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Summer is here and with it the first fruits: sweet, juicy and delicious strawberries.

The strawberry season in Maine is a short one, usually lasting only about two to three weeks, and the Cape Farm Alliance is ready to take advantage, holding its annual Strawberry Festival on Friday and Saturday, June 24 and 25.

The fun gets going with a pig roast and lobster bake on Friday, which will also feature live music, a silent auction and a not-to-be-missed strawberry dessert.

The Strawberry Festival features berries from Maxwell’s Farm on Two Lights Road, where the festivities move on Saturday. This year’s event also features the first-ever farm parade at 11 a.m. Participants are encouraged to dress up as their favorite farm animal, fruit, vegetable, flower or tool.

The parade will be judged and prizes awarded for the best costume in each category. On Saturday, the festival will also feature new vendors, local artists, local craftsmen and local foods, along with family friendly activities, live music and tractor rides.

Attendees can also pick their own strawberries in Maxwell’s fields. Signs will be posted that day to direct berry lovers to the best picking spots. No dogs will be allowed on the fair grounds or in the picking fields.

Bill and Lois Bamford, the owners of Maxwell’s, said in an email that while Maine experienced a dry spring, it had no effect on the plants: “It just meant we needed to irrigate more.”

They said, “so far, we are seeing a really good crop” and that the berries are ripening about as usual – although the couple added there is no such thing as a “typical season.”

When asked why people love strawberries so much, the Bamfords said, “What’s not to love? (Strawberries are) juicy, sweet and fun to pick. (And), these berries will be the freshest you’ll ever eat.”

The couple also said that picking your own strawberries can be a great time spent “outdoors spent with the family.” There are also many uses for strawberries from eating them fresh from the field, to making strawberry vinegar, to adding them to any salad, or using in smoothies or pies and muffins.

This year’s recipe of the year from Maxwell’s is for a strawberry salsa. The recipe for that and other dishes are available on the farm’s website.

Imogene Altznauer, the event organizer, said the Cape Farm Alliance first started the Strawberry Festival as a way to celebrate one of the community’s most beloved crops.

In addition, she said, the event has also evolved into an awareness “of the rich (history of) agriculture on both land and sea that’s (such an integral part of the) fabric of Cape Elizabeth’s farming heritage.”

Friday’s dinner includes appetizers, roast pork, lobster, steamed clams, corn, salad, bread, strawberry lemonade, mini strawberry milkshakes and dessert, “beautifully prepared and donated by The Good Table,” Altznauer said.

Throughout the entire weekend the strawberry will be highlighted. From food, to kids activities, to agricultural education, “the strawberry is the weekend’s royalty,” she added.

What organizers hope, Altznauer said, is that participants in the festival “walk away with a skip in (their) step, a smile on (their) face and hopefully, some greater knowledge of the strawberry, (along with) how important agriculture is within (the community.)”

She said, “Truly (it should provide) some home-spun fun and a great day out” for local families.

Strawberries ripening on the vine at Maxwell’s Farm on Two Lights Road in Cape Elizabeth. The farm has started picking for wholesale and planned to open for u-pick this week. Its strawberries will also be featured in this weekend’s Cape Farm Alliance Strawberry Festival. The festival opens with a pig roast and lobster bake 6-10 p.m. on Friday, June 24, at Shady Oak Farm, 30 Fowler Road; tickets are $35. Saturday features live music, strawberry picking and more, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., at Maxwell’s Farm. See capefarmalliance.org for more information.

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