Strawberry Fest gets mascots

More than 100 years after Lebanon started its first Strawberry Festival in 1909, residents will finally be able to see its icon face to face.

The Strawberry Festival planning committee is in the process of having two strawberry costumes – one boy and one girl – constructed to serve as festival mascots.

“I think it will be absolutely fantastic to have a mascot,” said Cindy Kerby, vice chair of the Strawberry   Festival board.

“We’re hoping it can go with the Strawberrians to the events, and it can go to the schools and meet the kids, and obviously be at the festival.”

When the board put out a request for a sponsor who would support the cost of a strawberry costume, Michelle Morford of Country Financial offered to support the cost of not one, but two costumes.

Morford thought having a mascot was a fun idea, and it would be an important addition to Lebanon’s tradition, she said. The kids really love the Lebanon Police Department’s mascot dog, Gus, so having two strawberry mascots will also be fun for the kids.

But one of the main driving forces behind her sponsorship comes from a personal reason, Morford said.

“Lebanon has really been the first town that I’ve been able to stay in long term that I now feel like I have a home in,” she said. “It’s kinda neat to get that opportunity to contribute  to something like that.”

In addition to sponsorship recognition, Morford will be given the right to help name the mascots.

“We want it to be a name that kids will remember. We don’t want something weird, but we don’t want to name it ‘Berry’ either,” Kerby said.

Following the board’s desire for a name that would match the history and the theme of the festival, they’ve agreed on Morford’s idea of Mr. A.J. Berry and Mrs. Ida Berry, after the festival’s founders and first queen.

The costumes are being made by Carol Flemming Costume Design in California, which has made mascots for sports venues, food services, festivals and events since 1972.

The costumes will fit a person about 5 feet 2 inches to 6 feet tall, and will have an integrated cooling vest for those hot days, Kerby said. It will take about two months to create, but she hopes to have them in time for the Walk a Mile For a Child event in April.