ELLERBE — Monday night’s Town Council agenda was short: Swear in recent election winners — the mayor, two incumbent council members and one newcomer — and adjourn.
But Mark Buckeridge of the Downtown Merchants Association added a little “sweet” to the evening during the citizens’ comment period, presenting council members with the idea of a springtime festival to celebrate the strawberry.
“We’ve been working on ways to define the town,” Buckeridge said of the merchants association, whose plans for a festival would include such things as hayrides, crafts and entertainment. The city would provide the venue for such a fest — perhaps the city park behind Town Hall — but not the financing.
As Buckeridge presented it, a strawberry festival would do some of the same things as the just-ended Farm-City Week and Hometown Christmas — build on the allure of small-town life — only in May, when the strawberry harvest is at its peak.
Though the seeds for the idea had just been planted, council members waxed enthusiastic about it, offering suggestions for sponsorships, vendors and site.
“We’re just hoping” that such a festival could be “something that we can grow on,” said Buckeridge, who owns Ellerbe Springs Inn with his wife, Donna.
Mayor Lee Berry’s Berry Patch, on U.S. 74, is a landmark, and “we have three decent-size strawberry growers here,” said Susan Kelly of the Richmond County Cooperative Extension Service, who worked with the merchants to come up with a festival based on a local product. “So I think it’s a natural.”
There are existing strawberry festivals in Cherokee, Durham, Chadbourn (Columbus County), Wallace (Duplin County), Vanceboro (Craven County), Garner (Wake County) and Shelby (Cleveland County).
When the regular meeting began, Berry was the first to take the oath of office. Then veteran council members Archie Robinson and Jean Fletcher shared a Bible with newcomer Fred Cloninger, vowing to serve the town honorably and well.
Council members also voted to elect Fletcher mayor pro tem. She will preside at council meetings should Berry ever be absent.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]