Pig Out continues to anchor Strawberry Festival highlights
August 28, 2008 · Updated 9:19 AM
MARYSVILLE Year in, year out, drop in and Pig Out has been the rule each harvest on the 360-acre Beringer Farms just south of town, a crux of the annual Strawberry Festival.
And the berries were big, red and ripe this year as the sun shone down after a timely rain shower swelled the strawberries on the plants just in time. Droves of visitors from all over Puget Sound hit the rows during the 76th Annual Marysville Strawberry Festival last week.
The crowds came out with the sun on Saturday and families were having a vermilion-hued blast as they plodded and picked in the rows of plants on the Smith Island farm. Kettle corn, hog calling, trout fishing and kite flying were simply the sideshows to an annual pilgrimage to the fields next to Interstate 5, where toddlers and their parents were laden with flats and flats of berries. Only amateurs picked quarts but the raspberries and tayberries werent ripened quite yet, running about a week behind the strawberries, but those were abundant and huge, according to owner Diana Beringer, who said that two varieties sprouted the best this year, Tillamook and Puget Reliants. The former are good eating and the latter make for great toppings for strawberry shortcakes, she explained to a visitor.
The big red barn had a line of people out the door waiting to ring up their purchases as a helicopter ferried passengers over town.
As fast as they are picking them, were selling them, Beringer laughed.
Beringer said the owner of the helicopter said he remembered growing up and earning pocket money by picking berries on the farm, recalling a firm taskmaster who wouldnt let her pickers go home until every berry on their row was harvested. The chopper rides were a new activity, along with the shortcake eating contests, train rides and other familiar staples, but this year the vast array of rows of plants seemed to be the biggest lure.
It looks like one of the favorites has been picking strawberries, she added. The berries are absolutely gorgeous.
Beringer gave major props to her crew of Ukrainian teenagers who bring in the harvest, laying prone on a moving platform and scouring each row by hand. She said the immigrants have an excellent work ethic and are the most faithful and reliable workers, even to the point of making arrangements to show up and complete their shifts when they get another job.
We have such a wonderful crew, Beringer said. Were so like family, they come and hug us.
Another member of the extended family is also a Ukrainian, local attorney Walt Potebnya, three-time winner and reigning king of the slurp-n-burp strawberry shortcake eating contest. He was lording it over the fair in his cheesy strawberry cap and crown headgear for the last time, falling in an extended slurp-off to newbie Nick Collins of Kirkland. Collins is one of the motorcycle riders with the 4H Mudslingers Club who were showing off by the slough on the bikes and four-runners; he said it was his first time at the festival. Collins and Potebnya tied after a messy contest where about 30 other contestants washed out, literally. No one is allowed to use their hands and many contestants had someone else hold their hair back for them, including six-year-old Abbey Condyles of Marysville.
This is the first time shes ever been asked to eat without her hands, her mother Jodi explained as she held her daughters pony tail out of the sloppy mess that was Abbeys face.
Potebnya was a ringer in more ways than one: a lawyer with a big mouth, trying to sell Handi-wipes for $10 a piece, but Collins made fast work of his opponent in the finals. Man to man, the biker put his face in the shortcake while observers ribbed his opponent mercilessly.
Pin it to win it, Collins said after he vanquished the three-time champion.
Im terribly disappointed, Potebnya feigned as his reign came to an end.