CHASSELL - Beautiful weather, family-friendly festivities and, of course, locally grown strawberries drew hundreds of people to Chassell over the weekend for the conclusion of Copper Country Strawberry Festival, but it wasn't always looking so promising.
Almost a week before the festival, the Chassell Lions Club, which organizes the festival, decided to salvage the last of an unusually early strawberry crop by freezing the strawberries. The decision paid off.
"(Local strawberry farmer) Dan Crane really saved the festival. I can't imagine if we had to order strawberries from somewhere else. It just would not be the same," said 2012 Queen Lion Pam Hiltunen, whose father Allan Hackmann played an integral role in organizing the festival several decades ago. "It turned out to be very successful. ... The attendance here is probably the best I've seen."
Strawberries were in abundance at the annual Copper Country Strawberry Festival over the weekend, thanks to a decision by strawberry growers to freeze a portion of this year’s crop that ripened earlier than usual. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Stephen Anderson)
Crane said this year's strawberries may have been even juicier than normal, and the crowds seemed to enjoy them.
"They're a lot sweeter than the strawberries you're getting from California or Florida. It's unique to this area and that's why people flock here every festival," he said.
The Lions Club used a streamlined production line to convert 1,200 quarts of strawberries into hundreds of shortcakes for a long line of waiting customers.
"We came down after the parade and made a quick walkthrough of the vendors. The shortcake line got short and I said 'let's go get them," Houghton resident Francis Kanniainen said.
In addition to the strawberries, there was an array of vendors, children's games, a Friends of Fashion Vintage Fashion Show, free scientific excursions aboard Michigan Tech University's research vessel Agassiz, a barbecue chicken dinner provided by the Chassell Fire Department and First Responders and live music by the Otter River Ramblers.
"It's one of the better local festivals," said Renee Hiller, who brought her three children: Nate, 8, Ben, 6, and Casey, 3. "It's pretty much a tradition for the kids. ... They know this is where they come to do the fishpond, so that's what they look forward to, and the parade and the candy."