Anatomy of a Tired Festival

After nine years of living in downtown Indianapolis I finally made it to the annual Strawberry Festival fundraiser for Christ Church Cathedral on the Circle. I’d always wanted to go. June in Indiana is lush and green and a festival of strawberries sounded so perfect. I imagined farmers from all over the state bringing in flat after flat of fresh berries. There would be different strawberry desserts, all topped with fresh whipped cream sweetened with just a touch of sugar. Kids would run relay races around the Circle while balancing strawberries on a spoon. A few random, but good-natured strawberry fights would erupt. Especially exuberant young mothers would dress their babies in those funny little strawberry costumes.

Many of my co-workers planned to take a break from work to walk over to the Circle. I couldn’t wait to join them. But when I got there, this is what I found!
Festival copy
See those tents? Those aren’t booths for farmers and their berries or even fun games! They’re cafeteria lines where you and a bazillion other people wait in line to get a standardized strawberry dessert that with the works costs six bucks! And we’re talking food from vats. It was like a FEMA set up, only better organized. The festival website says that the 18K shortcakes (an impressive number) are homemade (and then frozen) for the event. In the one other tent that wasn’t a food line was a seniors band that played jazz standards. They were cute and obviously having a good time, but you could hardly hear them over the crowd.

And that was it. The assembly lines were enough to make me wonder how the word “festival” even got attached to the event. Did it used to be quaint? Katie called it a “strawberry distribution center.” Karen had warned me that I might be disappointed, but my other co-workers were thrilled with the event, and evidently so were the scads of people lined up for processed berries. I’ll probably catch it from the multitude for whom this passes as a good time, but fresh strawberries are better than this. I take some consolation in the fact that the Cathedral raises over $100K for local charities from this venerable “festival,” which is pretty amazing. Perhaps it just needs a fun overhaul.
Ewww copy

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18 Comments on “Anatomy of a Tired Festival”

  1. Cara Says:

    Troy- isn’t the cake like substance they use for the festival a biscuit? Ewwhh! I prefer pound cake for my dessert.

  2. Troy Says:

    Yes it is. And I have no idea how they taste because there was no way I was going to wait in those ungodly lines. I actually prefer crumbled pie crusts with strawberries, but pound cake sounds good, too, especially if it must be frozen in advance of the event. In my opinion frozen, pre-baked biscuits are pretty much only good for making a pan of cornbread dressing.

  3. jennie Says:

    That’s disappointing. I wish I would have known you were going and I would have sent my Strawberry Shortcake House with you – You could have carried it like a purse. (I feel confident it would increase the festival fun.) The people inside of the house STILL smell good after all these years – strawberry, blueberry, peach, etc. I don’t remember the official character names.

  4. Troy, I agree 100%. It is a tradition in these parts but it needs an overhaul. Cara, I love the way you put an H at the end of ewwww so that it ends with a loud “wh” sound. Very emphatic and I love it.

  5. Sally Says:

    Thanks for saving me a trip. They do hype it up to sound delish.

  6. Katy Says:

    Having grown up with strawberries in abundance every May and June, I love them so much. Even though the berries in the market now are not the same as what my family grew up eating, they are still good and we can have them all year long. Sometimes hard to crush.
    My Grandad that lived close to Pangburn grew berries for the market, you could come and pick for 5 cents a quart, this was the early 50’s. But he also hired pickers and shipped them to who knows where, perhaps to Indianapolis.
    The Perfect Strawberry Shortcake is layers of homemade pie crust and crushed strawberries, and then topped with homemade whipped cream, the real stuff. John and Troy gave me a whip cream maker that is my most loved kitchen tool, makes whip cream in one or two minutes, it is perfect, love it, love it.
    Jennie, I am so glad you still have your Strawberry Shortcake House. Jennie, if you don’t have a whip cream maker you must get one, perfect to top off a cup of coffee or hot chocolate.

  7. Katy Says:

    Troy, I am sorry the Strawberry Festival wasn’t what you expected. But it looked some of the people were having a good time.

  8. Troy Says:

    Actually a LOT of people seemed to be having a good time. I just don’t know what people see in standing in long lines to wait for a so-so dessert. Maybe a festival is just getting people who enjoy being together together. But other local festivals, like Greek Fest and Fiesta are more interesting.

  9. Susan Says:

    That’s as disappointing as LR’s Riverfest. Its highly overrated. I mean I know thousands enjoy it each year but I am not about to pay that much money to see some band I’ve never even heard of…
    I make homemade strawberry shortcake with this beautiful cookie cutter my mother gave me years ago and an old family recipe for the dough (I am willing to share the recipe to anyone that wants it)..its light, flaky, and melts in your mouth delicious. I don’t know one place in this area anymore that has fresh strawberries, but my sisters garden has many. I love that about my “laura ingalls” sister..she has such a green thumb.

  10. Troy Says:

    Oh Susan, please share the shortcake recipe. I know people will try it. Thanks!

  11. runningpeanut Says:

    Have any of you noticed how BIG strawberries are these days? Be warned-the bigger the berry the less taste. I say go for small and sweet.

  12. crystal Says:

    um how’d you do those graphics. and it sounds like a trip to your local farmers’ market would have been more enjoyable.

  13. Troy Says:

    Crystal, Photoshop is handy for graphics like that. And I agree with you about the Farmer’s Market.

  14. Leann Says:

    Love Photoshop. And I love that it has become a verb now.

    Susan brought some lovely chocolate-covered strawberries to a shin-dig the other night and I was so excited. However, I wouldn’t stand in line just for a mediocre shortcake I could make at home with those little round cakes you can buy specifically for strawberry shortcakes.

    Jennie: I think my aunt (who is only five years older than I am, so we were more like sisters) had that Strawberry Shortcake House. Was it in the shape of a strawberry? Excellent that the girls still smell good.

  15. Susan Says:

    Troy here is the recipe for my grammy’s shortcakes. They really are divine and great with any fruit shortcake you want to make.
    2 cups flour
    2 tsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    3/4 cup of shortening (I use Crisco)
    2/3 cup milk

    In a large mixing bowl combine all the dry ingredients and stir. Cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter until it is pea size. Make a well in the center and add the milk all at once to the well. Stir until moist.
    Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface 10 to 12 strokes or until smooth.
    Roll into a 10 to 12 inch circle or rectangle. You want to roll it fairly thin. Using a cookie cutter of any shape (I use a scalped edge cutter) dip into the flour and cut out your dough.

    Place cutouts on a baking sheet.
    Sprinkle each one with sugar (and cinnamon if you like it)
    Bake at 350 degrees until lightly brown. You really have to watch them!
    Serve warm or cold with strawberries, peaches, or whatever fruit you like and some whip cream.

  16. Susan Says:

    I figured out last night with my own oven it takes right about 10 minutes to bake the cutouts. I also sugar down my berries for awhile so that they sweeten up better and make a syrup.

  17. Troy Says:

    I can’t wait to try. Maybe for the 4th of July!

  18. Barb Says:

    Troy, nothing has changed with this since 1981…the last time I went…bad frozen everything. What IS that about? Serving the masses, I guess. Another bit of bad news…Country Friends is going out of business—maybe you knew that and weren’t sharing. Boo Hoo!!

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