The dignitaries, theme for Pungo Strawberry Festival held over Memorial Day weekend in rural village

Dignitaries for the 36th Pungo Strawberry Festival are, left to right, Honorary Witch of Pungo Judy Mahoney Pace, Honorary Mayor and First Lady Bob and Phoebe Braswell, and U.S. Navy Capt. Chad Vincelette, commanding officer of Naval Air Station Oceana, who will serve as the Grand Marshal of the festival’s parade on Saturday, May 25. [Vicki Cronis-Nohe/For The Independent News]

PUNGO – Memorial Day weekend will find Bob and Phoebe Braswell, the honorary mayor and first lady of Pungo, presiding over this year’s Pungo Strawberry Festival, with “Rise and Shine — It’s Strawberry Time” as this year’s theme.

The honorary mayor, first lady, and other festival dignitaries were announced at a Wednesday, May 8, press conference held at the Culpepper Barn in Pungo.

U.S. Navy Capt. Chad Vincelette, commanding officer of Naval Air Station Oceana, will preside over the parade, which will begin at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 25, near the intersection of Princess Anne and Indian River roads.

And Judy Mahoney Pace,  an active community volunteer, will reign over the festival as the honorary witch of Pungo.

Collin Morris, a junior at Kellam High School and a student at the Advanced Technology Center, designed this year’s poster, which depicts a sun rising above an arrangement of strawberry plants and berries. Morris, whose poster was chosen from among those designed by 20 students who entered the competition, said that he wanted to illustrate Pungo’s rustic atmosphere.  

“Pungo is different from the rest of Virginia Beach,” he said, “and I wanted to capture that.”

Collin Morris, a junior at Kellam High School, unveils his winning design that will be used as this year’s poster for the Pungo Strawberry Festival. His design celebrates the theme “Rise and Shine — It’s Strawberry Time.” [Vicki Cronis-Nohe/For The Independent News]
The festival is about celebrating the city’s rural heritage, said Todd Jones, chairperson of the Pungo Strawberry Festival Board of Directors.  

“Agriculture is what makes Virginia Beach the great city that it is,” he said.

The honorary mayor also praised the festival and Pungo’s rural atmosphere and the role that the festival played in the local heritage.

“I love this festival,” Bob Braswell said. “I was raised in Pungo, and I’ve been involved in the festival for 35 years.”

Braswell, owner of Back Bay House and Lawn, serves on the Strawberry Festival board of directors.  He has also served in other community organizations, including the Creeds T-Ball Association, the Princess Anne Masonic Lodge, and the Khedive Shriners.

Phoebe Braswell, a Sentara employee, also is involved in a philanthropic fraternal organization, and she has also worked with her husband to oversee festival entertainment. She has attended every strawberry festival.

Vincelette attended the University of Virginia, where he earned a degree in aerospace engineering before becoming a naval aviator. He has earned numerous personal awards over the course of his military service, including two Legion of Merit Medals and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal.

“It was a total surprise,” said Vincelette about being chosen as grand marshal.  “My wife and I go to the festival every year, and I think it’s a great community  event.”

Vincelette, a Pungo resident and a native of Virginia Beach, said that his selection epitomizes the strength of the relationship between the Navy and the community.

Pace serves as vice-president of Saving Kids Dreams Foundation, a non-profit aimed at encouraging outdoor education for children.  

She grew up in Windsor Woods, and, when Hurricane Matthew flooded that neighborhood in 2016, she organized volunteers to solicit meals from local restaurants for the volunteers. She is also active in the Back Bay chapter of Delta Waterfowl.

“I was honored to be chosen as Witch of Pungo,” Pace said. “I love my village, and I think that it’s a great honor to be chosen.”

Pace, however, is remaining secretive about her dress, which is traditionally reminiscent of the 18th century.

“I won’t tell what the dress will be like,” she said.  “I may be traditional, or I may be a little bit creative.”

The festival will include music, children’s entertainment, a pie eating contest, 4-H livestock exhibits, a midway with carnival rides, and a military exhibit. 

Spotted in the buffet line at the Pungo Strawberry Festival’s annual press conference and VIP luncheon on Wednesday, May 8 – one of the many attendees in strawberry print. Each year, the press conference features the announcement of the honorary dignitaries for the festival and the theme of the event, as well as a hearty buffet. [Vicki Cronis-Nohe/For The Independent News]

Admission is free, and parking is $10.  The festival hours are Saturday, May 25, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, May 26, 9 7 p.m.  The midway will also be open for carnival rides on Friday, May 24 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Visit for more information. 

© 2019 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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