‘Heartbreaking’ Strawberry cancellation spawns new twists for celebration

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Rain could have been the weather’s way of expressing how the city of Lebanon felt when the pride of the town, Strawberry Festival, was canceled.
“It was heartbreaking for us. This is something the community really looks forward to,” said Gary Dobrkovsky, president of the Lebanon Strawberry Festival Association.
The 111th Lebanon Strawberry Festival was canceled due to the COVID-19 quarantine. It would have been a wet event, anyhow, because scattered showers drenched the city during the time the grand parade would have taken place.
“We’ve been due for a rain-out, so why not this year?” noted Cindy Kerby, festival operations chairperson.
Still, the festival board was able to put together a couple of events for 2020.

A handful of houses and businesses were decorated for Strawberry Festival week, and were judged by the junior and senior courts, Ida and AJ Berry, Mayor Paul Aziz, and Mack from the Corvallis Knights.
Willamette Manor and the Macedo household at 33786 Santiam Highway won first place for business and home, respectively. Avamere Rehab and 910 E St. took second place, while Bella Hair Studio and 333 E. Ash St. took third.
On Thursday, June 4, festival volunteers passed out 100 gift bags to some of Lebanon’s heroes.
“The first day of the festival, Thursday, is designated as a day to honor all veterans and first responders,” said Cindy Ongers, chair of Heroes Day.
Though the festival was canceled, they still wanted to do something, Ongers said. With local sponsor donations, the board was able to continue the tradition of passing out the gift bags.
“Each year the bags are filled with a variety of items and each year it is different,” she said. “We contacted the Veterans Home, the Lebanon Police Department and the Lebanon Fire Department to drop off the bags and tell them how grateful we are to have them in our small town.”
However, the fire department was unable to accept them this year due to COVID-19.

On Saturday, the senior Strawberry Princess court joined festival volunteers to hand out a limited 2,500 servings of strawberry shortcake at Cheadle Lake Park.
“This was an opportunity for our board to get together and actually do something physical,” Dobrkovsky said. “This is the first time in a long time that a lot of people have been together.”
To accomplish such a task in rainy weather during Phase I of Oregon’s quarantine, the festival board set up a drive-thru situation. Two lanes were marked out on either side of a tent where the cake was prepped and princesses handed out servings to the drivers.
Though much of the sponsorship and grant monies for the festival this year will be rolled into next year’s event, Primasing Motors wanted to make sure their sponsorship could support the shortcake drive-thru, Kerby noted.
Coronation, which usually kicks off Strawberry Festival week, was canceled. Ironically, it was officially canceled after the festival ended.
The board was holding out to see how COVID-19 played out, and if there were enough opportunities for the princesses to engage in, said Andrea Bruce, court coordinator. Court members are awarded points based on their participation and what they do leading up to the festival.
The princesses this year lost out on personal growth and experience that would develop them into the role of queen, Dobrkovsky said.
“After careful consideration of the duties each year of the princesses, this year’s court did not have the duties and obligations or the experiences that are involved in the responsibility to be crowned queen,” Kerby said. “This was a really hard decision to make, and we did not come by it lightly.”
Aside from personal growth, the other biggest reason was because there’s no festival for them to reign over, Bruce said.
As such, there will be no queen this year. In lieu of that, there is a plan in place to hold some sort of celebration, Bruce said. It would be a time to celebrate the senior court, and possibly even include the junior court, as well.
A date has not yet been set for the event, but Bruce anticipates it could happen in August. It was also noted that the court will still get the scholarship that goes along with being a princess.
The annual flower show, hosted by the Lebanon Garden Club, was also canceled. Still, the community was invited to post photos of their flowers on the club’s Facebook page as a sort of non-judged “virtual flower show.”
This is the first year since the start of the Lebanon Strawberry Festival that the flower show and the festival itself have been canceled.
As the board rolls up their blueprints for 2020, they are already planning next year’s festival.