The headline for June 16, 1938, reads “Holland Plans Strawberry Festival and Homecoming”. The committee, chaired by Helen Dunn, was formed the previous winter. It opened at 1:30 P.M. on Saturday, June 18 with a parade through the village led by the Ohio State Patrol and Lucas County Children’s Home Boy Scout Troup presenting the colors. The Holland, North Troy and Napoleon High School bands, the Lucas County Children’s Home Drum and Bugle Corps and Boy Scout Troops from the area took part. Mayor John C. McFellen rode in the official parade car and other village, township, school, fire department and other officials were part of the procession. Children on their bicycles and pets were also included in the line-up for the parade. The first mayor of Holland, Miss Mabel Hovey sat in the reviewing stand with the Superintendent of Schools and Mrs. W.A. Whitman, Dr. and Mrs. C.J. Pollock, Postmaster and Mrs. E.V. Hartman, the Rev. and Mrs. W.H. Spybey, the Rev. John Labuzinski, Miss Alice Marsh, principal of Holland High School, County Superintendent of Schools and Mrs. A.N. Thurston, and Mrs. Emma Gunn, Holland’s only Gold Star Mother.
The festival grounds were the playing fields for Holland Schools and for the first time in the history of the village there was a merry-go-round and ferris wheel. A kiddy ride, other concessions, and a picture taking booth were available for entertainment. Strawberries were served by the Band Mothers, and the firemen, baseball club and Facta Non Verba Club operated the concessions.
Saturday night a dance was held in the Town Hall, and Sunday there was a baseball game in the morning between the Holland merchants and the Crissey merchants. In the afternoon another game was held between the Holland merchants and the Holland Athletic Club.
Entertainment included the Rhythm Girls consisting of Veryl Stair, Marjorie Stair and Madelyn Farr sang, and rube entertainers Cy and Mandy Perkins, whose real names were Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Kimble, were featured.
The committee that organized this first festival was chaired by Miss Dunn and included leaders of the community, then and in the future: Albert E. Lormer, Marcella Elliott, Mrs. Sarah Soule, Helen Wood, Evelyn Dunn, H.M. Schlegel, Mayor McFellen, R.O. Holtz, Claude Vesey, Max Albon, Ross Albon, Glen Leydorf, E.J. Rodebaugh, Carl Naitzka, Chancey Gibson, Clyde Newnham, Lyn Newnham, Charles Phillips, George Griffin, J.H. Fritz, Perry Wood, Scott Wood, Dr. Pollock, George McCord, A.B. Regenold, Irving Cashen, M.A. Reid, C.G. Price, R.C. Williams, E.J. Dryer, Harold Parker, Verne Parker, Ellis Soule, Arnold Noe, James Gunn, Fred Cobb, E. A. Holman, John Schott and Charles Wood.
The festival was successful and it was decided to make it an annual event, and in 1939 even though a tornado ripped through the village it was still held. In 1940, approximately 20,000 from neighboring communities joined with the citizens of the village to partake of shortcake and ice cream, band concerts, rides and the parade. The Strawberry Queen for that year, Juanita Tipton, was crowned by Mayor Charles E. Phillips. Homes were decorated and Mrs. Emmaline Rodebaugh received a prize for the best one. Joseph Grabowski received an award for the largest berries and hundreds of crates of strawberries were sold at a market by local farmers. William Henderson, a balloonist ascended from Hill Avenue, two miles north of Holland, and landed later on Dorr Street about 3 miles north of Holland.
Another festival was held in 1941, but with World War II starting at the end of the year, the festival was suspended until 1948. The proceeds made from these first festivals were invested in War Bonds and after the war the Strawberry Festival Committee purchased 22 acres of woods on the corner of McCord and Angola Roads that they wanted to develop as a community park, which was later called Strawberry Acres. The festival was held in the park and streets of Holland until that area could no longer accommodate it because of size. In the 1960s, the site of the festival was switched to the area near the old Holland High School. During this period Strawberry Acres was deeded to the village for further development.
In 1968, the Strawberry Festival Committee was renamed Community Homecoming Corporation and purchased 39 acres in 1969 on Angola Road. This land, originally called Spring Valley’s Strawberry Recreation Center, was not used for the festival until 1974, but from that time forward it has continued to be held there.
In 1998, the festival was again extended to Strawberry Acres and many citizens of the village were involved in the revival of the event at one of its original sites.
Not all remember the other activities this group funded and assisted in the period from 1938 until now. These included Boy Scout Troops, school activities, Christmas for those in need, providing funds for boys and girls travel to special events, community Halloween parties, etc. Part of the proceeds started the Strawberry Festival Scholarship that is awarded annually to a Springfield High School student. Baseball fields were added to what is now Community Homecoming Park and for years 700-900 boys and girls have used those facilities. Later, soccer fields were needed, and again the Strawberry Festival assisted in providing that need to many of the youth in the community.
In order to obtain more funds for the development of Community Homecoming Park, the community members who organized and directed the Strawberry Festival each year, deeded that land to Springfield Township, with the idea that it was to be used for the benefit of community children and that the Strawberry Festival could use the grounds in perpetuity for that event.
Those who have participated in this event over the many decades should be remembered as ideal citizens each time anyone attends a sports or other event at Strawberry Acres or Community Homecoming Park. Many, many hours, days and years of hard work has gone into the development of this community tradition.
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