Lot of strawberries for sale under the Festhalle

Like so many things, strawberries weren’t on the menu last spring as the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled plans for events and public activities. But one of Cullman County’s longest traditions is back and bigger than before this weekend, as the annual Strawberry Festival makes its sweet return to the historic district near the Cullman Festhalle Market Platz.

Beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday and running into the early evening, this year’s festival has been cultivated to produce row upon well-groomed row of fun activities celebrating one of the Cullman area’s agricultural mascots. Organizers at Cullman Parks, Recreation, & Sports Tourism have sewn the seeds of a well-planned day, with everything from a strawberry-themed walking tour to the fest’s first-ever doggie beauty pageant set to unfold on Saturday.

Officially dubbed the Strawberry Fest’s “Doggie Pawgeant,” the celebration of four-legged haute couture is actually kind of a big deal. Pet lovers will dress up their pups in full pageant attire for a strut across the main festival stage at 3 p.m. — and it’s not all about good looks, either. In addition to the main prize (a special doggie cake baked by Milly’s Pet Bakery), plenty of pups will also be in line for pageant-appropriate awards like Best Smile and even Miss Congeniality.

It’ll all be capped by an “after paw-ty” at the nearby gazebo at the Cullman County Museum, where the winners (both dogs and people) can howl about their achievements while the losers lick their wounds. On a slightly more-serious note, the Museum also is hosting a historical walking tour that’ll take guests back to the past for a local strawberry lesson from tour guide Michael Sullins. The walk marks the fourth and final Saturday in Cullman’s April lineup of weekly walking tours, and will meet at the customary location at the Cullman Depot (on the west side of Depot Park) to set off on foot at 10 a.m.

Lest anyone forget the reason for the occasion, strawberries themselves will star throughout the day as area growers show off (and sell) their strawberries and other produce under the Festhalle Farmers Market canopy. The farmers market will open at 7a.m. Saturday, and if past festivals are any guide, it’ll probably pay to get there early if you want to take home a basketful of nature’s locally-grown candy.

There’ll also be a Strawberry Festival Craft Fair (10 a.m. - 6 p.m.), a magic show from five-time Birmingham magician of the year Brian Reaves (10 a.m.)., and tons more activities — both impromptu and planned — throughout the day. And even though the main event takes place on Saturday, you’ll be able to catch a piece of Strawberry Festival history early at Desperation Church’s downtown campus beginning Friday evening.

That’s where the 2021 installment in the time-honored Miss Strawberry Festival Pageant will kick off, with doors opening Friday at 5:30 p.m. ahead of the pageant’s 6 p.m. start time. As in decades past, the pageant will select a Strawberry Queen to represent the festival and its deep ties with local agriculture. This year’s pageant is a two-day affair, resuming once more at Desperation on Saturday (10 a.m.) to crown winners across all contest divisions.

We’ve barely taken a bite out of everything the Strawberry Festival has planned (there’s also a full day of music, a blood drive, and much more). To flesh out the full schedule lineup, check out the festival’s website at www.cullmanstrawberryfest.com; follow along on Facebook @CullmanStrawberryfest — and be sure to bring your sweet tooth to the Festhalle and surrounding streets for a day of festival fun on Saturday, May 1.

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