PONCHATOULA, La. - Dozens of non-profit organizations put the final touches on their Strawberry Festival set up Friday under sunny skies and much better conditions than last year.
Rain leading up to the popular Ponchatoula event last year caused issues for the festival and the fruit, which meant less than hoped for exposure for local businesses and groups.
Rodney Wempren with the Ponchatoula Knights of Columbus #4874, said, “It's the biggest fundraiser we have because all of our money goes into donations to the church and the school and we have some outside organizations we give money to."
This year started off bitterly cold and delayed the blooms. But farmers say the strawberries came around just in time to be on display, in a big way, this weekend. "We've been able to keep our quality, the sweetness of the berries is there. It's good," said Strawberry King, and farmer, Richie Howes.
Organizers are hoping that festival attendees make it a priority to support local vendors because they need it. Festival Chairman-Elect said, "This is what this festival began being was for the strawberry farmer and the non-profit organizations to make money. It quickly became their biggest event they can do to make money."
But downtown businesses want you to stop by too, so they're creating special strawberry-related treats and products to draw you in. Aaron Foret at the Ponchatoula Pub said, "We get a lot more business, a lot more exposure. Just a good time all together."
And festival-quality weather, paired with prime-picked berries, is the formula many are hoping will make for a sweet success. State Police are asking festival-goers to take alternative routes to the event to avoid dangerous back-up on area interstates.
Here are their suggestions: From Baton Rouge: Exit Interstate 12 Eastbound at Pumpkin Center exit #35, proceed south to LA 22, then continue east on LA 22 into Ponchatoula.
From Covington / Slidell: Exit Interstate 12 Westbound at LA 445 exit #47, proceed south to LA 22, then continue west on LA 22 into Ponchatoula. From Mandeville: Take LA 22 west into Ponchatoula avoiding Interstate 12. From New Orleans area: Exit Interstate 55 Northbound at Manchac exit #15, proceed north on U.S. 51 into Ponchatoula.