BY TODD JONES
PUNGO — Once again, our Pungo Strawberry Festival staff has risen to the challenge to make this year’s event a reality. Now in its 33rd year, this festival continues to be one of the city’s last ‘hometown’ events. We host a great family event. Participants can feel good knowing that all money raised is donated back into the local community.
We are a 100 percent volunteer organization. The festival has two core missions — to donate back to local charities within the Pungo-Virginia Beach area and to fund scholarships for local students to further their college educations.
Last year, we contributed more than $57,600 to charities and another $15,500 in scholarships. Since 1984, the Pungo Strawberry Festival has donated nearly $1.1 million.
We take great pride in knowing this festival raises much-needed funds to support so many charities.
The Nelson Brock Memorial Scholarship is available to local high school seniors. The Mabel Brock Memorial Scholarship awards scholarships to students already in college to encourage these young men and women to stay in school and complete their degrees.
The 2016 scholarship winners will be announced later this month. The more money we raise, the more we give away.
Where else but the “Greatest City in the World” could we put together a festival like this? And where else but Pungo could we give it a hometown feel?
We want to remind everyone that this festival supports our three largest economic engines in Virginia Beach — the military, tourism and agriculture.
Our theme this year is “The Perfect Start to Summer.”
I often say Memorial Day in Virginia Beach is significant for three reasons. It is the official kickoff to summer in our resort city. It is a time to reflect upon the sacrifices the men and women of our armed forces make every day to protect our freedoms. Third, Memorial Day is known for the Pungo Strawberry Festival.
So many people make this festival happen every year. Many of them are not board members, but their decisions impact us greatly.They are the residents, business owners and landowners in the Pungo area. There would be no festival without their continued support.
We invite a bunch of people to Pungo to celebrate the holiday weekend. We use private land for parking, 4-H, military exhibits, the carnival and so many of the entertainment and vendors. Perhaps the greatest show of appreciation is to come back after the festival and support them year-round.
This event continues to be an alcohol-free festival, and it will be as long as we are on the board. We promote a family atmosphere where children of all ages can come, play and enjoy the many activities. Our parking fee this year remains at $10, and this will get you in to enjoy many free entertainment opportunities and the festival environment.
We are very pleased to have the city of Virginia Beach as our official sponsor this year. This festival would not happen without them. While the city sponsors the event, it still is run by the Pungo Strawberry Festival Board.
We also celebrate the hard work of our agricultural partners. After all, what would the festival be without those delicious strawberries? Please support our local farmers. Take an afternoon off, visit your local produce stand, and tell them the Pungo Strawberry Festival sent you.
We have a full slate of activities this year. This includes another excellent military exhibit, the carnival, the always-popular Virginia Beach 4-H exhibit, 40 food vendors to satisfy any festival cravings, more than 130 vendors selling their goods, 18 different acts performing, and the return of Dr. Lori’s Antiques Appraisal Show. Our parade will begin at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 28.
We have also invited back the Combat Wounded Coalition, home of Wounded Wear clothing. Last year, thanks to the generosity of everyone who came, they sent service members to a hospital on the West Coast that specializes in treating traumatic brain injuries.
Finally, we lost two members of our Pungo Strawberry Festival family recently — Gus Beede, who was always here for us and provided encouragement, and founding member Jenell Brock, who was instrumental in getting this festival started. Both will be missed dearly.
Jones is the chairperson of the Pungo Strawberry Festival, and this has been adapted from prepared remarks delivered during Wednesday, May 11, in Pungo. It has been edited for style and length. Find out more about the festival at PungoStrawberryFestival.info.
© 2016 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC