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Strawberry Festival 59 years old and still going strong



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Last year, Emmett Goulding, of Leonard, chowed down on strawberry sundaes dished out by Addison Twp. firefighters. We trust he’ll be back again this Saturday. (click for larger version)
July 13, 2011 - There's no doubt it's one of the oldest community celebrations anywhere in Oakland County and on Saturday, July 16, it returns for the 59th consecutive year.

Thousands of visitors from far and wide are expected to converge on downtown Leonard for the annual Strawberry Festival.

"It's a good event for families," said Leonard Village Councilwoman Char Sutherby, who serves on the festival committee. "Your kids are safe. They can wander around without any problem. It's inexpensive. It's homegrown fun."

"We have lots of new activities this year and a new band (for the street dance) in the evening," said Festival Committee Member Phyllis Roe. "It's a wonderful day to visit with friends and family."

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This year's festival begins with a pancake breakfast at Leonard United Methodist Church from 8-10:30 a.m.

A classic car show will take place in the Cooper Standard Automotive parking lot between 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Registration and setup for the show begins at 9 a.m.

At 11 a.m., Addison Township's kind and brave firefighters will begin dishing out strawberry and chocolate ice cream sundaes in the old fire station next to Rowland Hall. Sundaes will be served until 6 p.m.

Also at 11 a.m., the arts and crafts booths will open as will the Upland Hills petting farm and miniature golf course.

Don't miss the big parade on E. Elmwood St. starting at 12 noon sharp. This year's Grand Marshal is longtime Leonard resident John Michael Moran. Special persons set to ride in the parade include Edward Porter, Eleanor Hamilton, Marge McCallum, Ann Schlusler and Mary Sue Sutherby.

Following the parade, beginning at 1 p.m., children are invited to enjoy train rides, a giant inflatable slide, inflatable obstacle course, tropical maze and the ABC Tumblebus, all free of charge. There will also be a dunk tank featuring local celebrities and pony rides for $3 each. Children's activities will run until 5 p.m.

Those who wish to test their knowledge and win some prizes are invited to participate in the "Game Show Party" event from 1:30-2:30 p.m. on E. Elmwood St.

"It's for all ages, children and adults," Roe said. "It's a unique mixture of Price is Right, Let's Make a Deal, Name that Tune and Who Wants to be a Millionaire? It's kind of different."

Other fun events include Country Games from 2:30-4:30 p.m. by the Polly Ann Trail; a magic show put on by "Da the Clown" at 2 p.m.; senior dancers from Oxford at 3 p.m.; a performance by the Amber Dance Academy at 3:30 p.m.; and an Elvis impersonator from 5-7 p.m.

As always, the street dance will run from 7-10 p.m., however, this year, it will feature the musical stylings of Rumourz, a cover band from Lake Orion that plays rock, blues and a little country.

Two new food vendors will be serving up delicious vittles all day long at the festival – Randy Klein's Big R BQ and the Lakeville-based Bear Paw Cafe.

This year's Strawberry Festival will be dedicated to the memory of Sandra Walendzik, who passed away in May following an 11-year battle with cancer. Walendzik was the driving force behind expanding the festival in size, scope and popularity, making it the grand event it is today.

Festival committee members will honor Walendzik by wearing pink t-shirts bearing her face. A cement planter dedicated to Walendzik's memory was placed in front of Rowland Hall on E. Elmwood St.

Those who can't wait for Saturday are invited to the Friday night festival kickoff from 6-8 p.m. It will consist of a potluck dinner.

Attendees are asked to bring their own beverages and chairs. For more information call Char at (248) 628-5924 or Nate at (248) 318-5706.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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