Entry fees a change for festival

**Please note: The Lebanon Strawberry Festival has changed the Thursday evening coronation time to 5:30 p.m.**

The Lebanon Strawberry Festival Association, Inc. has changed its annual event’s fee model this year as an approach to solving two problems: inflation and traffic to Cheadle Lake Park.
Instead of allowing free admission and charging a $10 parking fee, the nonprofit will instead allow free parking with a $10 admission fee per person 13 years and older ($8 if purchased online before June 2 at LebanonStrawberryFest.com/tickets.html). The group is also selling – online only – $25 season passes for all four days. Daily wristbands are available online or at the event.
It should also be noted that, as in years past, Rainier Amusements charges its own ticket fees for rides and games, although wristbands good for unlimited rides and two games are available for $30 pre-sale online or $40 on-site.
Regular Strawberry Festival attendees will recall that Santiam Highway traffic sometimes stretched back to Walmart, a 1.6-mile crawl that could last two hours. What caused much of that trouble, according to Strawberry Festival Chairperson Cindy Kerby, was that each driver paid a parking fee at the lot gate. She expects a more efficient flow this year.
“By not charging parking, and just letting them park and getting them in the lot, gets them off the road and makes it safer,” she said. “Then we can do something at the gate where they pay admission to get in.”
Charging admission helps solve another problem: the recent steep hike in costs for, like, everything. Kerby described this year’s expenses as “astronomical compared to what it’s been in the past.” For instance, in 2019, the cost for insurance alone was $8,000. This year it’s $23,000.
“Our budget (about $410,000) is twice what it’s ever been in the past just because everything is so much more expensive,” she said.
The festival is funded primarily through sponsorship and donations, and (now) through the admission fee. The association also received $3,000 from tourism dollars through the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce. The Lebanon Strawberry Festival Association, Inc. consists of a governing body and an operations board of 46 people, none of whom are paid.
Between 150 and 200 volunteers run the show during the weekend.
– Sarah Brown