The annual Strawberry Festival, one of Chester County’s most-anticipated events, on the grounds of Brandywine Hospital, finishes its four-day run of family-oriented entertainment this afternoon.
Organized by the Brandywine Health Foundation and presented by Key Bank and PECO, the event is celebrating its 45th year of raising funds for the Coatesville community.
“This got started when some nurses from the old Coatesville Hospital went out and picked strawberries and made strawberry shortcakes to raise money,” said Jill Whitcomb, Vice President for Development and Communications at the Brandywine Health Foundation.
“In 2001, when the hospital was sold, we took over the organizing of the event because we recognized the value of continuing it.
“Since then, it has really grown.”
Whitcomb expects more than 28,000 visitors this year, as the festival will feature live entertainment, rides, games, an arts and crafts fair, an international food fair, Strawberryland (for kids under eight), and – of course – strawberry shortcakes.
With the help of sponsors and 700 volunteers, Whitcomb is especially pleased that her organization is able to keep the festival affordable for families, including free general admission.
“There are so many free activities – like live bands, magicians, jugglers, a climbing wall, and fireworks – that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy the festival,” she said. “People look forward to it every year, and use it as a staycation.
“Instead of going to Six Flags and spending $200, they enjoy the Strawberry Festival and know that all the money raised goes back to the community. Every penny that we raise goes out to the beneficiaries.”
Funds raised this year benefit four Coatesville-area organizations: the Coatesville Area Public Library, the Coatesville Youth Initiative, the Thorndale Volunteer Fire Company, and the Coatesville Rotary Club.
“We’re very happy to be aligned with the Brandywine Health Foundation,” said Frank Pryor, the library’s board president.
Numerous library programs – including the summer program for kids, financial literacy, and programs for seniors – are direct beneficiaries of the Strawberry Festival.
“We also love having the Book Fair table at the festival,” said Pryor, “which is a good way for us to engage with the public, help promote issues that are important to us, and sell books at reasonable prices.”
The Rotary Club has been a beneficiary of the Strawberry Festival for many years, according to Francesca Crane, the club’s president.
“We have given over $150,000 in grants to the community since 2008, and much of that money has come through our activities with the Brandywine Health Foundation and the Strawberry Festival,” she said.
Some of the organizations receiving those grants through money raised at the festival include the Coatesville Area Senior Center, Bridge of Hope, and Handi-Crafters. The Rotary Club also pitches in at the festival with ticket sales and by selling low-cost hamburgers and hot dogs at its food stand.
The 45th Strawberry Festival runs from June 1-4. Thursday night is wristband night, when anyone purchasing a $25 wristband gets unlimited amusement rides. Fireworks are slated for Friday night.
Click here for more information, including an event schedule.