Sometimes they’re double agents.
Dressed up as the starlets of shortcake, for instance, they also serve as good will ambassadors and friend-makers.
Take their role in last weekend’s Strawberry Festival, put on by the Second Congregational Church in conjunction with the 56th Annual Arts Festival in Cohasset.
Strawberry shortcake was the reason to say, “Hi, my name is Joni, I live in the next town over.” Or, “Hello. We’re the Smiths, we just moved here;” or, simply (for a start), “Two strawberry shortcakes, please.”
Like food the world over, strawberries – this month’s seasonal darlings -- have the magnetic drawing power to bring people together.
“It’s about participation, really, getting to know people,” said Jack DeLorenzo, chairman of the Strawberry Festival committee. “That’s how we got to know people when we came here – a ham and bean supper.”
Along with its function as something fun to do, the strawberry festival, which has been going on for at least 20 years, raises money for the church’s chosen charities. It isn’t as much money as it could be, though, since the organizers haven’t raised the price for years: A large bowl of local strawberries, shortcake, and whipped cream goes for $5.
This year, about 40 volunteers, working for five days, made 2,200 bowls of strawberry shortcake.
Across the vast Cohasset town common – covered with craft booths, tents filled with fine art, and food stands, the First Parish Unitarian Church was doing their version of the strawberry festival at its ninth annual Lobster Roll Sale.
“Last year we did 1,200 rolls; this year, 1,100 and something,” said Art Myles, who co-chairs the sale with his wife, Penny, along with the help of 60 volunteers.
The $13 lobster rolls, which come in brown paper bags with potato chips, are a no-frills sandwich made with only lobster meat and mayo on a hot dog bun. And, they’re delicious – if small – but it isn’t really the roll that people are after.
And, while it’s true that part of the draw is a coming together to raise money for charity, that’s not the real riches the lobster sale produces. More than anything, buying the lobster rolls and the strawberry shortcakes, year after year, builds community. And community –- that sense of caring for; being cared for; and feeling a part of something bigger than yourself -- makes life rich.
Which is why a bowl of strawberry shortcake or a small lobster roll from the festival is so special to so many.
“We had a woman call from as far away as Virginia,” said Penny. “She put in an order for 10 for tonight.”
Both churches add to their outreach by taking orders and delivering their dishes to local businesses on the Friday of the festival weekend.
“I did all the delivery,” said DeLorenzo, who brought bowls of strawberry shortcake to about 30 businesses Friday afternoon. “It was the most popular I’ve ever been!”
It’s not easy to spot the food sales at the two churches – located on either side of the action packed green. But, if you don’t partake, you won’t be left hungry by any means.
About a half dozen good food stalls attend the festival.
Some – like Dave & Jerry’s -- have been doing the arts festival for about 15 years. The two men sell trolley dogs and Italian ices and other foods, and have attracted their own following at the festival.
“They have the best French fries in all of New England!” volunteered Amy Abel of Kingstown, R.I. “We come every year. This must be our 20th year. It’s an annual outing for us. We love it.”
The Arts Festival is a serious art and craft show with a fine reputation.
But it could never be a festival if it weren’t for the food.
Without the food, it would be an art show. Food fills the weekend event with the sensuality of juicy fresh strawberries, lobster meat, French fries, and more. Food answers the eternal call with the exciting possibility of something special to eat, just for you.
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