by Dana Newsome
Strawberries the sweetest this side of heaven, as the locals claim, will be the highlight of the weekend April 17-18 in the small town of Starke, Florida. Located in the northeast corner of the state, Starke hosts the 12th Annual Bradford County Strawberry Festival each year. With a standing population of 5,700, the area Chamber of Commerce expects the rural community to welcome more than 10,000 weekend guests this year.
Strawberries were first grown in Bradford County in the late 1800s and flourished, while orange groves perished in the “Big Freeze” of 1895 and the cotton industry was destroyed by the boll weevil 20 years later. Crops of the berry have slowly diminished over the years due to the rise of cheaper, imported produce, but several families continue to grow strawberries in Bradford County and showcase them each year in April.
The Strawberry Festival hosts local artists, craftsmen and vendors along historic Main Street in downtown Starke. Visitors and locals can visit booths for shopping, enjoy family activities, listen to live music and, of course, partake in the local strawberries. Covered in chocolate, included in shortcake and fresh from the fields, the county’s sweet strawberries are the main attraction. Local farmers bring the berries in straight from the field each morning, so attendees can also take home a flat to enjoy later.
Visitors should follow signs for parking for the festival as Main Street and other parts of downtown begin to close Friday, April 16, and will remain closed through Sunday night. For more information, contact the Main Street Starke Association at (904) 964-5278 or visit the festival’s website.
Easy Strawberry Jam
2 cups mashed strawberries
4 cups sugar
1 package Sure Jell Fruit Pectin
3/4 cup water
Stir strawberries and sugar together, mixing thoroughly. Set aside. Stir Sure Jello Fruit Pectin and water in saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute. Stir mixture together until sugar is completely dissolved and no longer grainy. Pour into containers or jars. Cover. Let stand overnight. Store in freezer until served, then keep in refrigerator. Makes 4 8 oz. containers.
Important: Measure sugar exactly. Do not reduce amount or jam will not set properly.
About the Author
Dana Newsome lives in Starke, Florida, and is the owner of Purdy Little Things, specializing in handmade Scrabble tile pendants.