Sometimes it can seem like all the local festivals are cut from the same cloth: the same old food carts, the same trinket sellers, the same bands. But not the Vashon Strawberry Festival.
Like most things on the quirkily individual, eco-friendly island, the annual festival celebrates everything that you can’t get anywhere else. And this year, there might even be a few strawberries too.
But if you’re going to make the trek for the fest, it helps to know a few things about it, as well as a few extra things about the island to get the most out of the weekend.
The parade is the central event of the Strawberry Festival, and it’s worth the ferry ride all by itself. Like small-town, old-fashioned parades used to be, it celebrates every character on this idiosyncratic island – look (and listen) for the homemade circus contraptions of the Lelavision duo, the ocean-themed creatures of the Puget Sound activist groups, the antique tractors calmly driven by 8-year-olds, and the legendary Thriftway supermarket shopping cart drill team (which gives its best performance at the Bank Street intersection). With so many islanders taking part, it’s a wonder there’s anyone left to watch – but there is, and unless you want to set up super early for a seat, your best bet is near the food stalls outside the park for standing-room viewing.
Actually, there aren’t many strawberries at the Strawberry Festival. Yes, you can buy berry shortcake and strawberry lemonade, but usually the real berries are all over by mid-July. This year, though, the late spring works in your favor, and you can either find them at the farmers market or pick them yourself (see www.stov.us for a list of farms).
The festival food carts have the usual tacos/gyros/elephant ears, and if you don’t want to waste 45 minutes in line, make sure you get your lunch before the parade starts. But Vashon also has some terrific lunch places (Monkey Tree, The Hardware Store and The Red Bicycle are all on the main road) and if you reserve a table, you might even get a parade view. Stocking up at the Thriftway deli for a park picnic also works.
The Vashon festival has more unusual and local vendors than just about any other fest, and there are always the carnival rides tucked away behind Vashon Village opposite Ober Park. But you can beat the heat (if there is some) by taking off for the swimming pool, where the slide and diving board are pleasantly uncrowded (and also free from noon-4 p.m. this Saturday). Or head farther down to Point Robinson lighthouse for beachcombing (low tide is at noon this Saturday).
Something new at the Burton Skate Park is a community eco-art project led by University of Washington teacher Beverley Naidus: the permaculture/sculpture/storytelling installation “Eden Reframed” is still in progress but nearly finished.
OUT OF THE SUN
Need to escape the crush? Try the library next to Ober Park, where the kids can sink into a beanbag chair or play the computer games; the beer garden opposite the library; or the bookstore, which offers second-hand books as well as new.
Allow plenty of time on and off the ferries this weekend, and don’t expect to drive your car any farther north than the cinema a few blocks south of downtown. Back streets fill up quickly and clog for hours with vintage cars and parade participants. If you can cycle even part of the way, you’ll be ahead of the game, and if you have time, it’s a fun overnight stay at the Vashon Youth Hostel, just north of downtown, where you can choose between dorm beds, a teepee, a covered wagon or your own tent, and get a free pancake breakfast to boot. They’ll lend you bicycles for the short ride into the festival, which definitely beats the traffic, and you might meet some festival performers staying there.
Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568 firstname.lastname@example.org
if you go
When: Today through Sunday; pancake breakfast 7-11 a.m. Saturday and 8 a.m.-noon Sunday, parade 11 a.m. Saturday, street dance from 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Downtown Vashon along Vashon Highway
Other: Vashon Pool, 9600 S.W. 204th St., Vashon, www.vashonparkdistrict.org; Vashon Youth Hostel, 12119 S.W. Cove Road, Vashon, 206-463-2592, www.vashonhostel.org; Burton Skate Park, 10500 S.W. 228th St., Vashon, www.vashonparkdistrict .org.
Information: 206-463-6217, www.vashonchamber.com/strawfest