Wet, cold spring won't dampen fun of Ringgold Ruritan Strawberry Festival
RINGGOLD — A cold, wet spring might have changed the date of the Ringgold Strawberry Festival, but the spirit has not changed.
Ringgold Ruritan member Betsy Herbst said there are two reasons people make the event a success. “The strawberrries, and to help support the (Ruritan) building. Anyone who works at the building, we’re all volunteers, we make all the products that we sell at the strawberry festival so everything is fresh, local, and it’s the best,” she said.
The event, normally held the first Saturday in June, has been pushed back to Saturday, June 9, at the Ringgold Ruritan, 14247 Windy Haven Road, Smithsburg. The event is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“We do want to use local berries, we get our berries from Gardenhour Orchards and because of the weather this spring, the berries were not going to ripe until the 9th of June, so we had to change our strawberry festival from the 2nd to the 9th. Please don’t show up on the 2nd because there won’t be anybody there, but the 9th, they’ll have everything ready to go,” Herbst said.
Herbst said the festival has deep roots in the community, but fell by the wayside for many years until she and a few other volunteers resurrected the event in 1987.
The small group was raising money to purchase commercial-grade playground equipment for their children to use at the Ruritan building, and had been made 600 pies for the nearby popular Leitersburg Peach Festival, which takes place in August. The group decided to try bringing the strawberry festival back to life.
Now, proceeds from the event are used to maintain the building, which is more than 100 years old.
“It’s an older building so there’s always upkeep. My father-in-law who would be 96, went to school there as a child,” Herbst said of the former two-room schoolhouse.
Gardenhour Orchards provides 500 quarts of strawberries that are sold whole by the pint or quart, or sliced for use in pies, cheesecake or shortcake.
“We have volunteer ladies that come and sort the berries ... they pick out all the big berries and we box them up to sell. All the small berries are sliced up for strawberry cheesecake, strawberry shortcakes and to put in our pies,” Herbst said.
Herbst’s family business, Misty Meadows Farm Creamery, provides vanilla and strawberry ice cream for the event.
Herbst is also the cheesecake baker. She said she’s been making cheesecakes for about 30 years.
“Everybody loves the cheesecakes. They say they’re the best around. It is a special recipe,” she said of her dessert.
The pies are a big hit, too.
“We make seven cheesecakes and 75 strawberry pies, and hopefully we’ll have enough for everybody,” Herbst said. “The strawberry pie is a recipe the ladies have been working on for 30 years and I think we finally got it perfect because the pies do not last long. They get close to selling out by the end of the day.”
Any leftover pies are kept in the community as they are donated to the local fire department, she said.
Because the strawberry festival is held inside the building, the event is not contingent on the weather.
“Rain or shine, we’ll be there. Doesn’t matter, it’s inside the building so you can come inside out of the rain, enjoy nice desserts, we also have steamers, homemade soups, and we’ll have ham sandwiches. And hot dogs so you can get something to eat and then have a really nice dessert afterwards,” Herbst said.
Herbst also noted that new members would be welcome at the Ruritan Club, where most people on the rolls of the organization are older than 60. Besides the strawberry festival, the club is the host of two pot pie suppers, held in March and November, and members are trying to start community yard sales at the building.
But on June 9, it’s all about a certain sweet fruit.
“Definitely anything strawberry. Everyone’s coming for the strawberries. Whether to take a quart home with them, or to take a pie home with them,” Herbst said.
Top photo: A girl enjoys strawberry treats at the Ringgold Ruritan Strawberry Festival in 2016. This year’s event is on Saturday, June 9, at the Ruritan building. (Herald-Mail file photo)