Celebrating the ‘berry’ heart of Virginia Beach with the Pungo Strawberry Festival

Shayla McCartney, 17, a Landstown High School student who also studies at the Advanced Technology Center, signs a copy of her winning Pungo Strawberry Festival poster, seen at right, on Wednesday, May 9, at the Culpepper Barn in Pungo. McCartney said, “I wanted my poster to represent the warmth and love people can feel in Pungo.” [John-Henry Doucette/The Independent News]
Ed. Note – The following is adapted from remarks during the Wednesday, May 9, press conference announcing the dignitaries and theme. 


PUNGO — On behalf of the Pungo Strawberry Festival Board, the committee chairs and the many volunteers who make this festival a great success, allow me to welcome each and every one of you. 

This is the time of year where we remind everyone that, despite the weather, summer is right around the corner. The 35th annual Pungo Strawberry Festival is fast approaching.  

I want to take a quick minute and celebrate all the hardworking men and women who get up every day and do what you do. Regardless of your profession, we appreciate all that you do to make Pungo and Virginia Beach a great city in which to live, work and vacation.

May is significant to us for many reasons. Sunday 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.  May 15 is Peace Officers Memorial Day, and May 28 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. 

We also 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 of the festival this year is “Pungo: The Berry Heart of Virginia Beach.” While many consider Pungo the agricultural hub of the city, we know that Pungo is where you stop for water and gas before you head south to all the city has to offer.  

To show you how Pungo is improving and keeping up with progress, you may have noticed the roadwork that is ongoing at the Pungo light where Indian River and Princess Anne roads meet. You see we not only have a traffic light now, we have a turn lane. We have been assured the work will be completed well ahead of the festival weekend.

We have two core missions. The first is to support our military and pay tribute to those who have given so much to protect our freedom. After all, this festival falls on Memorial Day weekend. Our second mission is to support local charities, and this includes providing scholarship money to those who are furthering their education. Our scholarship committee awards roughly $15,000 each year.

I would like to take a moment and thank the digital design class taught by Lee Troxell at the Advanced Technology Center for creating incredible poster ideas to represent our festival.  It was another tough decision, but we selected the work of Shayla McCartney.  

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 help us donate to local charities within the Pungo and Virginia Beach areas and fund scholarships for students to put towards their college education. Since 1984, the the festival has given over $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 land owners in the Pungo area. Without their continued support, there would be no festival. Perhaps the greatest show of appreciation is to come back and support the businesses here after Memorial Day.

This event continues to be alcohol free.  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 $10 per car.

We 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. The festival is still organized and run by the Pungo Strawberry Festival Board. Sponsors include GEICO, TowneBank, Vacation Village, Dave & Buster’s Virginia Beach, Chrysler, Dawson’s Accounting and Coastal Landscapes. 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.

© 2018 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC / Used with permission

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