Strawberry Festival Filled with Circus Fun

A float from the McQuistan family features a vibrant circus theme. Photo by Sarah Brown

2024 Strawberry Festival Queen Addison Cable kicked off the 115th “Strawberry Circus” Lebanon Strawberry Festival on May 30 after being selected by a panel of judges for the honor.

The 2024 Strawberry Festival court are, from left, Queen Addison Cable, Jannah Jimenez, Kealyn Aguirre, Molly Theodoroff and Stella Lang. Photo by Kristine Banker

The four day festival (May 30 – June 2) began on Thursday, which is reserved as All Heroes Day, honoring veterans, active military and first responders with free admission, gifts and amusement ride discounts. It’s also a day for awards ceremonies for Consumers Power, Lebanon Fire District, Lebanon Police Department, Linn County Sheriff’s Office and Pacific Power.

The U.S. Coast Guard Air Station North Bend performed a flyover with their HH-65 Dolphin helicopters, followed by a flyover by Civil Air Patrol’s Cessna 182 aircrafts.

Thursday also marked the coronation event for the Strawberry Festival Court when the junior and senior Strawberry Courts provide introductions and entertainment, followed by the crowning of Cable as queen.

Live entertainment was provided by Jessie Leigh. The Strawberry Festival, as it has grown dramatically over the past few years, includes live entertainment from multiple performers. Also playing this year were Outlaw Shine, LOCASH, Rock Bottom Boys, Taken By the Sky (a Fleetwood Mac tribute act), Stone in Love (a Journey tribute) and Micah Tyler.

Alleah Mohamed, of Lebanon, said her family attends the Strawberry Festival every year.

A young girl accepts a prize from a carnival vendor. Photo by Kristine Banker

“This is like a family tradition for us,” she said. “It’s something fun to do with the kids around here. There’s not a lot to do around here, so it gives us a nice change of pace.”

As the festival has grown recently, some in the community have noticed the cost for admission adds up quickly, but that doesn’t deter most.

“I don’t really like that they charge admission, but it’s still something fun to get out of the house and do,” Mohamed said. “It was pretty nice last year, it was a little bigger.”

“It’s not a lot, but it feels like a lot when you go and buy all the bracelets,” noted Tesla Metzger and Nathan Adams, who both have grown up attending the Strawberry Festival.

The pair said they don’t go to the festival for the live musical entertainment, which is one reason for the admission charges, but instead they go pretty much for the rides.

For those not so interested in watching live musical performances, Family Land’s Washboard Willy returned for the second year, cutting through festival crowds with his one-man jamboree talents. Family Land’s interactive circus performances for children were expanded with more “Circus Imagination” offerings this year.

Photo by Kristine Banker

Ticket booth vendors reported what they believe was record attendance for the Lebanon Strawberry Festival. They noted people coming from as far away as Keizer and Newport, among other outside municipalities, and Saturday’s line stretched into the parking lot all day. Last year, they said, there were moments of down time for ticket sales, but that was not the case at all this year.

The festival also included line dance lessons in addition to all the traditional goodies: junior parade on Friday (Grand Marshall: FFA), run/walk and grand parade on Saturday (Grand Marshall: Former Court Royalty), free strawberry shortcake, shortcake eating contests (still a fairly new tradition), fireworks, church service and, of course, carnival amusement rides.

The weather for Friday’s junior parade was comfortably warm and cut through with a cool breeze. The parade seemed to be a shorter event than in previous years, lasting only half an hour, but the quality of floats by far made up for it.

The high school marching band roared through downtown with a powerful beat, children filled the street to represent their schools, and following them were floats souped up in circus theme. Children were decked out in clown and other circus-inspired attire, and even a dog was spotted dressed up as a lion. Balloons, bubbles and candy took control of the air space, drawing attention from the crowd on the sidelines.

Friends Cyan Davis and Kibby Chalker, both 11, react as Junior Parade entries walk through town on Friday. Photo by Sarah Brown

Cyan Davis, 11, said the junior parade was good.

“I really liked the whole thing, the circus,” she said.

Her friend, Kibby Chalker, 11, agreed.

“I loved it.”

A wet weekend forecast held out for a dry day during Saturday’s grand parade, which again provided an impressive array of floats and costumes by Lebanon locals.

Winners of the grand parade were: First Place: Hand in Hand; Second Place: Ixtapa; Classic: David Calentine; Antique First Place: Eugene Suing; Antique Second Place: Brandie Boyd; Mayor’s Choice: Zener Farms; Courts First Place: Lamb & Wool; Courts Third Place: Int. United Court; Nonprofit First Place: Scalywags; Nonprofit Second Place: Mustangs; Nonprofit Third Place: LAMHA; Non-commercial Misc. Second Place: Enchanted Willow; Small Commercial First Place: WW Hobbies; Small Commercial Third Place: Feet Don’t Fail Me; Sweepstakes: Helms family; Large Commercial First Place: Oaks; Large Commercial Second Place: Wiley Creek Assisted; Queen’s Choice: ENTEK.

Winners of the junior parade were: Float: Rieka family and friends; School: Riverview; Wheels & Walkers: Zack Dixon; Animals: Party Animals; Church: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; Business: Gillott Home Team; Junior Court Choice: Raelynn Utley on a pony; Queen’s Choice: Masog family; Mayor’s Choice: Cowgill Traveling Circus.