Fort Mill, South Carolina is commonly known to be the only place to find the best berries in the Carolinas. However, if you are looking for the originals, you will have to make a trip that’s a little farther than Walter Y. Elisha Park (the location of the Strawberry Festival Fort Mill). An eight hour and fifty minute flight from the Charlotte Douglas International Airport will take you directly to the capital of the largest country in Europe, Paris, France. Well known for their fashion, architecture, wines, cheeses, and... strawberries? France is also the home of the fraises de jardin, or strawberry garden in French.
It is believed that in 1714, large white strawberries were brought over to France from Chile during a trés réservé (very secretive) spy mission for King Louis XIV. A military engineer, Amédeé François Frézier (keep in mind the word for “strawberries” in French is “fraises”), gave the Chilean white strawberries to the Royal Gardens in Paris, which were later sent to Brittany, France. After years of mixing and matching tiny woodland strawberries, the sweet, juicy, red garden strawberry was finally produced in Plougastel, France. They were believed to be named after Frézier, but it was later discovered that strawberries received their name from their original way of cultivation where they were wrapped in straw to preserve moisture. Craving strawberries yet?
Let’s head back to America. The strawberry is the fourth most important fruit and one of the largest industries in our country. Here in South Carolina, we produce over sixteen different varieties of strawberries, including the Albritton, Apollo, Earliglow, Sunrise, and Tioga.
We take pride in our strawberries in the Carolinas, and what better way to celebrate our delicious home-grown fruit than the annual Strawberry Festival Fort Mill? 2014 is the South Carolina Strawberry Festival’s fifth anniversary and it is guaranteed to be the best one yet. Preparation starts as soon as the previous festival ends with the help of a committee made up of 50 volunteers. While Fort Mill is a growing town of 13,000+ residents, the committee is expecting around 40-50,000 guests this year. Wow!
Kimberly Starnes, Fort Mill’s Events and Media Coordinator, says that her favorite part of the Strawberry Festival is the two eating contests - strawberry shortcake and strawberry ice cream. She says that everyone approaches the contest differently; some are dainty and nibble around the sides and others stick their whole face in the plate. Strawberry Week kicks off the festival a week in advance with a golf tournament, pick-n-flick, pageant, and a strawberry pancake breakfast. This week also includes the newest event, The Berry Bolt, which is a scavenger hunt that will take teams around Fort Mill in search of clues. The festival is the weekend of May 2nd including, live music, South Carolina’s best vendors, rides and activities for the kids, pig racing, and a car show.
Now that you know so much about les fraises, aren’t you BERRY excited?
About Carly Williams
Carly Williams graduated from Nation Ford High School. She was a Producer, Anchor and Editor for The NAFO News, President of the Southern Interscholastic Press Association, Nation Ford Spirit Club President, one of Charlotte Observer’s “Young Achievers” and a Reporter for TEEN KIDS NEWS, the show airs worldwide educating youth and airing locally on WCCB (The CW) every Sunday at 7am.