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Now that summer is finally here to stay, Afton residents will celebrate the season with a time-honored tradition - fresh strawberries.

The 137th annual Afton Strawberry Festival and Marketplace will take place this weekend. It is put on by the Afton Area Business Association (AABA) and will feature food and activities which celebrate the rich heritage of one of the gems of the St. Croix Valley.

Event Coordinator Heather Kiel said this year’s event will feature more strawberries to eat and more strawberry-themed items than ever before. Ninety-five vendors will set up shop at Afton Town Square Park on Saturday and Sunday, including displays from local artists and business owners, a variety of food for purchase to munch on, and of course, plenty of farm-fresh strawberries from Afton Apple Orchard, Natura Farms, and Klingelhutz Farm and CSA.

Even if you don’t come hungry, there are plenty of other sources of entertainment. On Saturday, live raptors from Carpenter Nature Center will put on an 11:30 show. Other Saturday highlights include a strawberry dessert bake-off, a strawberry shortcake eating contest, and live entertainment from local musician Kyle Koliha. On Sunday, local folk group Colby Kent and The Stomping Ground will perform.

A portion of the festivities this weekend will occur at Memorial Lutheran Church - where the festival began 137 years ago. Current Pastor Elizabeth Damico said the nature and purpose of the festival has evolved over the years. It originated as a celebration of the planting season before it became a church potluck. Now, Damico views it as a community outreach event - a way to connect to the place Memorial calls home. She enjoys seeing people come out for a fun Saturday, have some dessert and enjoy the Afton Area and community.

Activities at Memorial Lutheran will take place Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm. Kids will enjoy make and take crafts, a bounce house, and bingo games throughout the day. A nursing room will be available for parents to use. Damico said sandwiches, hot dogs, chips, and fruit will be available with the option of a free will offering. Live music will occur during the lunch hour, as well as Memorial Lutheran’s famous bake sale. “The strawberry shortcake at Memorial is the best,” Damico said.

Although the festival is all about strawberries, for both Kiel and Damico, it’s also about so much more. Kiel loves that Afton has a small-town feel but is still close to the cities, and offers many parks for residents to enjoy. Damico calls Afton “an amazing community with beautiful scenery, the river, the country style of living and wonderful people... this setting is the perfect place to... be in community with each other.”

Kiel expects over 5,000 attendees at the 2-day outdoor festival this year. Since parking can be difficult on summer weekends, Damico said ample parking will be available in Memorial Lutheran Church’s lot, just a short walk from downtown Afton.

The Afton Strawberry Festival and Marketplace will take place Saturday and Sunday, June 22-23, 2019, at Afton Town Square Park (3418 St. Croix trail S., Afton, Minnesota 55001). Events will take place Saturday at Memorial Lutheran Church (5730 Afton Blvd S, Afton, Minnesota 55001). For more information on times, parking, and activities, you can visit AABA or Memorial Lutheran Church’s Facebook page.

Contact Jaimee Hood at jaimee.hood@ecm-inc.com

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