Strawberry Festival scheduled for Sunday

Staff photo by Don Himsel An all-vounteer crew was busy in the basement of the Congregtional Church of Hollis early Friday in anticipation of the crowd that will attend Sunday's Hollis Strawberry Festival. About 350 quarts of strawberries, courtesy of local farms, will end up in shortcake and other summer treats during the annual fundraiser for the Hollis Womens Club and Hollis Town Band. The event "brings the community together," said Betsy Cotton, president of the club. "It's supporting community values and giving purpose-filled lives to a lot of people." Band director David Bailey said earlier this month, “It’s really a special bit of old New England. There are not a lot of places doing this sort of thing.”

HOLLIS – It’s just a berry, but what a berry! Packed with taste and nutrition, strawberries have vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. But we love them because, at their best – meaning fresh, locally grown and ripe and not overripe – they taste as sweet as summer.

And just as summer starts, churches and civic groups puts these luscious little heart-shaped fruits to work in strawberry festivals across the country.

And the Hollis Womans Club’s festival could be New Hampshire’s biggest and the best. Each year at this time the club and the Hollis Town Band take over the center of town, serving fresh strawberry shortcake and strawberry sundaes with a background of favorite songs.

The festival was actually started by the band, and 30 years ago the Woman’s Club got involved.

Cathy Gast, the club’s spokesperson, said this year is the band’s 75th anniversary, and they will be playing some of the songs they played in 1943.

With music and food, it’s definitely a family event and also benefits local charities.

The date is Sunday, June 24, from 2-4 p.m. in the town common. If it rains, it will be held in the Hollis Brookline Middle School.

The club members don’t skimp on quality.

Berries come from Hollis’s Lull and Brookdale farms, and they’re picked the same week and delivered on Friday. Shortcake is made from scratch and from a secret recipe, said Gast, that was developed to be moist and not too sweet.

Whipped cream is made from real cream. Ice cream is from Doc Davis, which has stands in Brookline and Pepperell, Mass.

Strawberries can be had by themselves, with or without cream, with just ice cream, or with a full strawberry shortcake.

The club uses 370 quarts of berries, 60 gallons ice cream and 90 quarts of whipping cream.

“It’s just become such big event, Gast said, “We start planning in January.”

Friday and Saturday mean a lot of work. Friday is berry-delivery day, and volunteers have a hulling party where the berries get washed, hulled, sliced and sugared. At the same time, bakers measure out ingredients for the more than 80 pans of shortcake that get baked on Saturday. On Sunday morning, whippers beat the whipping cream.

Last year the club sold 1,300 desserts, and since some people come for just the music, there must have been more than 1,3000 attendees.

A high spot of the day is a raffle, and the winner gets to direct the band’s rendition of “Stars and Stripes Forever.”