Strawberry Fest Committee planning for 30th annual event

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 March 2016 at 12:00 am

Albion town asked to help fund festival June 10-11

File photo by Tom Rivers – A clown entertains in the Strawberry Festival Parade in this photo from June 2013.

ALBION – The bands, musicians and other entertainment don’t come cheap at the annual Strawberry Festival.

The two-day event in June, held the second Friday and Saturday, costs nearly $23,000 to put on. None of that goes for salaries. The festival is organized by an all-volunteer planning committee.

The Strawberry Festival Committee raises most of money for the festival through sponsorships and vendor fees. But the committee is facing about a $4,000 funding gap.

Michael Bonafede, chairman of the committee, asked the Albion Town Board on Monday to meet that financial challenge. The Town Board budgeted $3,000 towards the festival in 2015, and expects to at least meet that level again in 2016. The board will discuss whether it should go above budget for the festival. It should make a decision at its April meeting.

Town Councilman Jake Olles said the board wants to know specifically what the money will be used for. Bonafede said the money from the town can go towards bringing in some of the bands. The high school bands play for free, but the committee makes a donation to each participating school band.

The adult bands typically cost $800 to $1,200. This year’s parade on June 11 will include a newcomer to the Albion festival: the Stampede Drumline, the official drum line for the Buffalo Bills.

Michael Bonafede, chairman of the Strawberry Festival Committee, addresses Albion Town Board members on Monday evening. The board includes, from left: Darlene Benton, Richard Remley, Town Supervisor Matt Passarell, and Jake Olles.

The festival is also adding wooden boats to the parade, a wine-tasting event at Waterman Park this year on Main Street near the canal, food trucks on a limited basis, and the possibility of a chalk art display and competition. Nels Ross, a comic and popular children’s entertainer, will also make his debut at the festival as part of the return of the Teddy Bear picnic for children.

Festival organizers estimate the two-day event brings 12,500 to 20,000 people to the downtown and Courthouse Square.

“We see the festival as economic development, as well as showing off our community,” Bonafede told the Town Board.

The festival is sponsored by the Albion Rotary Club, and includes lots of in-kind support from the Village of Albion, said Karen Sawicz, the Rotary Club president.

The event this year will feature an Erie Canal theme. Returning attractions include a car show, 5K/8K race, turtle race with plastic toys in the canal, student poster and essay contest, fish pond, farmers’ market, food booths, a craft show, five entertainment venues, a Family Fun Center with games, and other displays.

Town Councilman Richard Remley thanked Bonafede and the many dedicated volunteers for organizing the event.

For more on the festival, click here.