Ed. Note – The following is adapted from remarks during the Thursday, May 11, press conference announcing this year’s dignitaries and the theme for the 34th annual Pungo Strawberry Festival, Friday, May 26, through Sunday, May 28, in “downtown” Pungo.
BY TODD JONES
PUNGO — Good morning and thank you for being here to help us kick off the 34th annual Pungo Strawberry Festival. On behalf of the Pungo Strawberry Festival Board, the committee chairs and the volunteers who make this festival a great success, I welcome you.
May is significant to us for many reasons. Sunday, May 14, is Mother’s Day. First and foremost, let’s recognize all the moms in our lives and ensure we tell them how much we appreciate all that they do year round. Monday, May 15, is Peace Officer’s Memorial Day. And Monday, May 29, is the Memorial Day holiday. May is the unofficial start to summer and, for those of us in Pungo, we know the Strawberry Festival is right around the corner. But this week we recognize the agricultural industry. Agriculture is one of the top economic engines in Virginia Beach. Strawberry fields are open, produce stands are selling their goods and “Buy Fresh Buy Local” has real meaning.
When you support local growers you are supporting local residents, businesses and farms. Every year, I challenge people to take an afternoon off with your families and go strawberry picking. You will have more than strawberries to take home. You will be guaranteed an afternoon of fun memories. Perhaps it will be the beginning of a family tradition. And tell them the Strawberry Festival sent you.
The theme this year is “The Sweet Taste of Pungo.” We want to emphasize all the wonderful food that is synonymous with our festival. It wasn’t that long ago we were featured on the Food Network show, “Carnival Eats.” I would like to take a moment and thank the Digital Design Class taught by Lee Troxell for creating incredible poster ideas to represent our festival. It was another tough decision, but we selected the work of Eric Villa for this year’s poster.
One of our core principles is to support the military and pay tribute to those who have given so much to protect our freedom. After all, this festival falls on Memorial Day weekend. The past two years we have invited the Combat Wounded Coalition to the festival to promote their cause. Because of your generosity and their hard work, they have raised more than $13,000 to provide support to military veterans. We look forward to having them here again this year.
The Pungo Strawberry Festival is a 100 percent volunteer organization. All proceeds go to local charities and scholarships for graduating Virginia Beach seniors. By supporting this festival, you are helping us donate back to local charities within the Pungo-Virginia Beach area and fund scholarships for local students to put towards their college education. Since 1984, the Pungo Strawberry Festival has donated more than $1 million back to the community.
I want to take a minute to recognize everyone who makes this festival happen each 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. Without their continued support, there would be no festival.
We invite many people to come celebrate the holiday weekend with us. We use privately owned land for parking, 4-H and agricultural exhibits, the carnival and so many of the entertainment and vendors that make this festival a unique experience for all. I want to say a special thanks to the landowners and business owners. Perhaps the greatest show of appreciation is to come back after the festival and support these businesses after Memorial Day.
This event continues to be an alcohol free festival. We promote a family atmosphere where people of all ages can enjoy the many activities we have to offer. Our parking fee this year remains at $10 per car.
We want to recognize and thank the city of Virginia Beach for sponsoring the festival again this year. Without their support, this festival could not happen. So many agencies spend time with the planning needed to keep us safe.
While the city is a sponsor of the festival, it is still organized and run by the Pungo Strawberry Festival Board. Other sponsors include GEICO, TowneBank, Dave & Buster’s Virginia Beach, Husqvarna Automower, Backyard BBQ, Planet Fitness Hampton Roads, Langley Federal Credit Union, Dawson’s Accounting and Coastal Landscapes.
We will have a full slate of entertainment throughout the weekend. There are three stages that will host a variety of acts each day. Please see our website or grab a brochure when you arrive to see the exact times and locations.
Here are some details about this year’s festival:
► The carnival will open at 5 p.m. and close at 10 p.m. on Friday, May 26. People will be able to buy unlimited ride wristbands for $25. This is the only time they are offered.
► The hours for the next two days of the festival are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, May 27, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday, May 28.
► The opening ceremonies begin at 9:15 a.m., Saturday, May 27.
► Our parade starts at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 27, and it is coordinated by Tim and Robin Lee.
► Our Honorary Mayor of Pungo for 2017 is Tommy Martin.
► Our Honorary Witch of Pungo for 2017 is Nancy Martin.
► Our Grand Marshalls for 2017 are Rocky Holcomb and Frank Davis.
We hope to see you this year. Thank you for the support.
Jones is the chairperson for the festival’s board. Visit pungostrawberryfestival.info for more information.
© 2017 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC. Remarks used with permission.