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Strawberry Festival exceeds expectations

March 8, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

There was great music, even better strawberry shortcake, and it resulted in just what the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church wanted - it got the community out.

The eighth-annual Strawberry Festival was the biggest one yet, with more than 500 people attending and lots to do both indoors and out.

Pastor Tom Willetts started the event as a community outreach event, and eight years later he has seen his efforts blossom.

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Strawberry shortcake — with Pland City strawberries — was the featured event.

"We wanted people to come and have some fun because a lot of people from all over the country are here and can easily just stay in their communities," said Willetts, who added the event was not a fund raiser. "We just want people to come out of their communities and have fun. Plant City, where the other Strawberry Festival is, is a long ways off."

The parking lot showed the need for such an event, as it was almost totally full. Of course the star was the strawberry shortcake, with angels food cake or biscuits, with the strawberries once again donated by Sizemore Farms out in Plant City.

Outside, people were serenaded by several musical acts, including the Pipe and Drum Corps, which led things off at 10 a.m., followed by The Entertainers, TNT, Brylcream, and the Island Coast High School jazz band.

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In between musical acts, the world's fastest tricyclists gathered for the a grueling race to the finish.

Among those racing was Barbara "Lightning" Yeatermeyer, the church's music director, who was dressed like the Flash. Unfortunately, she limped to the finish as a speed that made it very possible to catch lightning in a bottle.

"I lost. But we had the bad bike. They're still repairing it, so it was all technical. Lightning usually wins," Yeatermeyer said. "This is just a fun community event."

Inside, more than 40 vendors came to sell their crafts. There was also a bake sale and a representative of Gideon, who distributed scripture.

Jane Olah and her husband, Gabe, from Port Charlotte, had two booths where they sold different artwork. Jane, a potter, had colorful ceramic fish that she made herself from scratch, while Gabe had fish made from palm fronds.

"We only do about four or five events a year. We're just getting started. I'm retired and I thought I needed a hobby, so I explored the world of pottery," Olah said. "I enjoy it. It keeps me sane."

The event ended at 2 p.m., when the numerous volunteers stripped down the event to make way for the scheduled 4:45 p.m. church service, which went off without a hitch.

"We break everything down and turn the department store back into the sanctuary. It's a good time," Yeatermeyer said.

Good Shepherd United Methodist Church is at 2951 Trail Dairy Circle, across from Del Tura Country Club. For more information about the church or its activities, call 239-543-2686.



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