Summer is already shaping up to look a bit different on the North Fork this year amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.
After a meeting Friday night, the Mattituck Lions Club has decided to cancel the 66th annual Strawberry Festival typically held Father’s Day weekend.
“Naturally, due to the circumstances, with no large gatherings allowed by the county and state and more importantly for the health and safety of all of our attendees and their families, we decided to cancel the festival,” said Rob Nine, immediate past president of the Mattituck Lions Club.
But that doesn’t mean the 66-year-old tradition will die.
Instead, members of the festival’s steering committee have come up with an alternative plan for the festival. The club plans to sell fresh North Fork strawberries, strawberry shortcake and daiquiris via drive-thru service at the usual festival location at Strawberry Fields.
Lions club president Steve Ammirati said Saturday that while it was “unfortunate” to cancel the event, which draws thousands of people to Mattituck each June for strawberry treats, carnival rides and fireworks, it’s heartening to see aspects of the festival kept alive.
“The locals have supported us for 65 years — we hope we can raise some money and give a lot back to the community,” Mr. Ammirati said.
It’s the first year since 1955 that there will be no Strawberry Festival as we know it.
Mr. Nine said Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement Friday morning that schools will remain closed through the end of the school year solidified their decision. “We knew there was no way we were going to be allowed [to hold the festival],” he said. “I don’t think many people would show up anyway.”
In addition to shortcake and daiquiris, another tradition that will be continued is naming a 2020 Strawberry Queen. Mr. Nine says all applications are in and a committee is working out the details on how the process will move forward. A crowning could possibly be tied into other fundraising events that are being discussed for later this year, he said.
“Losing the festival is very difficult. It will certainly limit our ability to do what we normally do,” he said of the club’s charitable efforts.
This year’s festival was to be presented by lead sponsor Peconic Bay Medical Center-Northwell Health. It’s the largest fundraiser for the Mattituck Lions Club, with monies raised supporting over four dozen local organizations.
The Strawberry Festival is the latest event casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.
Several other large events that were planned have already been canceled, including the Rotary Uncorked event originally scheduled for May 20 at RGNY as well as the Oysterponds Historical Society’s North Fork Fresh tasting event planned for June 13 and benefit gala on Aug. 8.
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