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May 11, 2012

Strawberry Festival begins today

CULLMAN — This year’s Cullman Strawberry Festival seems more like a downtown jam session than the usual arts and crafts fair, with some quality musical acts lined up for the annual event.

The festival has been a tradition of the community off-and-on for decades, and organizers hope this year’s effort may be the largest yet.

This weekend’s slate will feature live music from the bluegrass band Three On A String, Nashville recording artist “Mean Mary” James, Roy Crawford, local alternative rock band Exit 310, musician James Taylor and others.

Victim Services of Cullman is also sponsoring a Cullman Idol singing competition, with free recording sessions for the top winners.

The festival begins at 7 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, with events and musical acts spread throughout both days. Festivities will be centered around the Festhalle Market Platz and Depot Park.

Festhalle manager Jimmy Simms said organizers are making a renewed focus on the entertainment side this year, with a dedicated music tent established beside Festhalle Market Platz in downtown.

“This is the first year we’ve moved entertainment out from under Festhalle to the parking lot in an entertainment tent,” he said. “We’re really pushing the entertainment, and we’ve got some great folks coming.”

The festival was actually canceled last year in the aftermath of the April 27, 2011, tornadoes, and organizers say they’re excited to get back on track.

“We had to cancel it due to the storm last year, and it’s so exciting to get back this year, because we had everyone who was going to be involved last year contacting us, wanting to be a part of it this year,” Simms said. “We have some great events lined up.”

The usual slate of craft fair vendors will be set up in Depot Park in downtown, and Simms said the city is also expanding to house a larger kid’s zone this year.

“We’ll of course have our craft fair, which has really blown up, and we’ll have the park filled with different vendors, wagon rides and all sorts of things,” he said. “The farmers market opens at 7 a.m. each day, and we plan to have some traditional Cullman County strawberries for sale. This year we will have a petting zoo, and a live pony carousel, plus inflatables and a pool where kids can walk on the water in a bubble. It should be a lot of fun.”

Admission is free, and Simms said numerous downtown businesses are also getting involved this year to host sidewalk sales and other accompanying events for the weekend.

“Everyone has been so supportive downtown, and we really want to include everybody in this,” he said.

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