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June 27, 2013

Steeped in tradition

Church's 'Strawberry Ladies' have a long history with Amesbury Days

Every year around the first day of summer, roughly 20 women from Amesbury’s Main Street Congregational Church gather together, snap on some plastic gloves and start preparing for the church’s annual Strawberry Festival.

For decades, the ladies have hulled thousands of strawberries for the festival, which can then be used to make shortcake, smoothies or simply sold as is. Thanks to their efforts, the festival has remained one of the most popular and longest-running events of Amesbury Days, itself one of the oldest cultural institutions that Amesbury has to offer.

Amesbury Days originally began in 1899 as a single-day event run by local factories for their employees. Since then, it has grown into a massive summer celebration. The festival typically kicks off with the Chamber of Commerce’s annual Block Party and wraps up with the Fourth of July fireworks show.

This year will see some changes to Amesbury Days, the most notable being that the festivities will be held over a single weekend, as opposed to spread out like in years past.

Mayor Thatcher Kezer, whose office has taken over the organizing responsibilities this year, said the goal of condensing the festivities was to create more of a celebratory atmosphere by putting on quality events every day to drive more foot traffic and create a critical mass of people and activity in town.

For instance, tomorrow night, the city will hold its annual Brewfest in the City Hall parking lot, and at the same time, there will be a series of musical performances in the Upper Millyard Amphitheater.

Then on Saturday, the farmers market and Strawberry Festival will be held simultaneously in the municipal parking lots surrounding City Hall and the library, along with a variety of sidewalk sales, the Art Expo and the Community-Wide Yard Sale.

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