Strawberry Festival Preview: Festival designated Heritage Tradition

It took 109 years to get it, but the City of Lebanon now has the distinguished mark on the map: Lebanon Strawberry Festival is designated an Oregon Heritage Tradition.

Civic events that can be designated an Oregon Heritage Tradition must have been in continuous operation for more than 50 years, demonstrate a public profile and reputation that distinguishes it from more routine events, and add to the livability and identity of the state.

“The designation recognizes those traditions that have helped define the state,” said Todd Kepple, the commission’s chair. “This event truly celebrates local heritage in Oregon.”

The Lebanon Strawberry Festival started in 1909 as a way to showcase Lebanon and promote the then-prominent berry industry. Today, the county-wide celebration has grown from a parade and shows on the dirt streets of downtown Lebanon to a four-day festival at Cheadle Lake Park that includes multiple parades, a royalty court, a carnival, a race, and the world’s largest strawberry shortcake.

Jami Cate, chair of the Strawberry Festival board, acknowledges how the tradition has grown and expanded along with the town.

“The City of Lebanon is growing and changing, and it’s fun to see the contrast between the traditional ways of life for the area—the tractors and log trucks driving through the parade, the generations-old insurance companies and banks still sponsoring the Festival – and the new aspects of Lebanon –the medical college volunteering at the 5k Race, the new breweries and restaurants sponsoring our events, the new city park being named “Strawberry Plaza.”

The festival is a volunteer-powered event with 30 board members this year, plus more than 100 additional volunteers. More than 10,000 participants attend from across the county and the state.

“We’re really pleased to learn that the Strawberry Festival has earned this honor,” Cate said. “We invite all Oregonians to share our tradition and a piece of shortcake by attending the festival.”

The Oregon Heritage Commission coordinates efforts to solve statewide heritage issues through grants, education, and advocacy, and also promotes heritage tourism efforts.