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Shoreham celebrates summer with strawberries

STRAWBERRY DESERTS BRING smiles to the faces of David and Cora Waag and their grandkids Zoey and Justin at the Shoreham Strawberry Festival this past Thursday. Independent photo/Nora Peachin

SHOREHAM — No one is really sure how long the Shoreham Strawberry Festival has been going on. Guesses of half a dozen folks we asked ranged from 15 to 50 years. But one thing is for sure, lots of strawberry-filled smiles greeted my friend Nora and me as we walked into the basement of the Shoreham Congregational Church last Thursday for the annual celebration of the juicy red fruit. 
Community members of all ages gathered around tables draped in red-and-white-checkered tablecloths to fill up on strawberry shortcake, pie and other tasty treats (all topped with heaps of whipped cream and ice cream, of course). 
“Look at the excitement,” said church member and event volunteer Ginny VanHazinga, as we surveyed the room humming with lively conversation. 
People may have come for the strawberries, but they stayed to catch up with friends and neighbors.
For the Rev. Christina Del Piero of the Congregational Church, the strawberry festival means that summer has officially started, a seasonal marker the entire church and community look forward to each year. “I’ve met some really wonderful people,” she said of the event and reflecting on her four years with the church. Del Piero, who’s last service at the church was on Sunday, said she is constantly inspired by the members of her community and the hard work of the church volunteers who help organize events like the festival.
Why strawberries? 
“Because everybody’s been waiting for spring, and summer, and strawberries!” said church member and festival volunteer Mary Jane James. Everyone was particularly excited this year at the sight of the bright red berries after a long cold spell carried into late spring and delayed berry harvests. This year, the berries came from Full Belly Farm in Monkton, as the Shoreham-based Douglas Farm, where the festival used to get its strawberries, has stopped growing them. 
James, who is in charge of baking the large, fluffy shortcake biscuits, spent much of the event floating near the kitchen door. But that didn’t stop people from peeking in to say hi and exchange hugs.
“We’re like a family,” said James, who has been a member of the church for nearly 50 years and whose husband, Edwin, has been going there his whole life.
Even as a total newcomer, everyone was happy to sit down, chat, and welcome Nora and I to the family.
And the strawberries? 
The huge serving of James’s strawberry shortcake may be the best summer desert we’ve ever tasted. It took a lot of self-restraint not to go back for seconds (and thirds).

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