BUCKHANNON – What prompts people to travel from near and far to the famed West Virginia Strawberry Festival, which is now in its 78th year?
Some might say carnival fun, cool berry-laden contests and a chance to reunite with friends and family while soaking in the atmosphere of quaint downtown Buckhannon.
But any Strawberry Festival-goer knows that the food – which ranges from carnival classics to steak sandwiches to strawberry staples – is always a major motivator.
Of course, there’s no shortage of perhaps the most popular dessert of the berry season – sweet strawberry shortcake. You can sample as many as you like during this year’s festival, “Strawberry Roads, Take Me Home,” May 11-19.
Here’s a list of not-to-miss list of local delicacies:
Strawberry delights prepared at local eateries
-C.J. Maggie’s Restaurant in the heart of downtown Buckhannon is mixing up strawberry shortcake – but with a twist. Owner C.J. Rylands says the classic American grill will be serving Strawberry Shortcake-in-a-Jar, featuring fresh strawberries, yellow cake, chocolate syrup and whipped cream.
In the mood for something lighter? Stop by and enjoy a sweet glass of homemade strawberry lemonade.
–Pita My Heart, a new healthy Mediterranean restaurant that recently opened on North Spring Street, has created a Chicken Strawberry Pita just for Festival Week. It’s stuffed with fresh strawberries, chicken breast, spinach and a special yogurt-based sauce.
In the mood for something, shall we say, smoother? Try out Pita My Heart’s signature Chocolate-covered Strawberry Smoothie, a refreshing blend of vanilla frozen yogurt, strawberries and semi-sweet chocolate chips.
–The 88 Restaurant & Lounge will bring back its ever-popular chilled Strawberry Soup. Enjoy it with a hunk of bread, which you can slather with a special house-made Strawberry Butter, 88 owner and manager Carl “Robbie” Martin said.
If you’re thirsty, head over to the bar for this year’s strawberry-themed cocktail – a Chocolate-covered Strawberry Martini, served with a chocolate-covered strawberry on the side.
–Stone Tower Brews, a local coffee shop, noshery and seller of craft beers, has plenty of beverages on tap for both beer drinkers and those who choose not to imbibe.
STB’s vegan and caffeine-drinks include its signature Strawberries & Cream Italian Soda and Strawberry Hibiscus Tea. Espresso fans might opt to try a Dark Chocolate Strawberry Mocha, White Chocolate Strawberry Mocha or, making its debut this year, the new Strawberry Shortcake Latte.
Hops enthusiasts can jump on the chance to try Screech Owl Strawberry Beer and Lancaster Strawberry Wheat Beer, both of which will be on tap. Bottles of Samuel Smith Organic Strawberry Ale will also be for sale.
Hungry? Stone Tower will be cooking up Strawberry & Goat Cheese Guacamole, its popular Strawberry Spinach Salad (pictured below) and Strawberry Habanero BBQ Chicken. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Strawberry Cheesecake in the grab-and-go cooler, and on Festival Weekend – Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19 – pop in for Strawberry Cream Cheese Waffles.
–Sweet-A-Licious, which is home to hand-dipped Hershey’s ice cream, has developed an entire menu around the sweet and tart red berry.
So, of course, several flavors of ice cream starring the fruit that wears its seeds on the outside can fill your cone or cup.
In fact, co-owner Michelle Jack said the ice cream shop will also have on hand Chocolate-covered Strawberries, Strawberry Italian Soda, Strawberries and Cream Iced Coffee and a delectable Chocolate-covered Strawberry Milkshake.
“We are actually having a whole menu dedicated to the festival,” Jack said.
But that’s not all! If you’re having trouble satiating that sweet tooth, try Sweet-A-Licious’s Classic Strawberry Shortcake, Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies, Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes or Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes.
–Buckhannon’s iconic Dairy Queen will be blending Ghiradelli Chocolate-covered Strawberry Blizzards featuring vanilla soft-serve.
–Brake’s Dairy King’s generous helpings of the classic favorite, Strawberry Shortcake, are second-to-none. Enjoy a half serving or a whole serving or indulge in a homemade Strawberry Milkshake with fresh strawberries and vanilla ice cream or a Strawberry Cheesecake Razzle with frozen strawberries, vanilla soft-serve and cheesecake chunks.
–Fish Hawk Acres, a local farm-to-table eatery that also sells coolers-full of fresh produce, will feature Strawberry Scones, Strawberry Cupcakes and Strawberry Cinnamon Rolls, among other luscious, fresh-baked goodies.
Food court cravings that keep people coming back and other local favorites
Sweet and spongy strawberry shortcake can be found at the American Legion office, while the local Episcopal Church and Chapel Hill United Methodist Church – all located on South Kanawha Street – will be home to local favorites that don’t always involve the strawberry itself.
For instance, ribeye steak sandwiches, assembled by the 4-H club, typically sell out at the Episcopal Church, while strawberry pancakes and sausage are another top pick of people who people who make sure to stop by the First United Methodist Church. And don’t forget to check out the giant, scrumptious sugar cookies and homemade vanilla ice cream at Chapel Hill UM Church.
Locals and visitors alike typically make a tradition of stopping by the Festival Food Court, located on Spring Street in downtown Buckhannon, to sample some of the following items: kettle corn, strawberry shaved ice, JAWS! BBQ sandwiches, ribbon fries with cheese and bacon, It’s Greek to Me’s popular gyros, hot dogs, cheesesteak sandwiches, Italian sausage hoagies, cotton candy, chocolate-covered strawberries and much more.
Carnival classics, like cotton candy and funnel cakes, can be enjoyed amongst the rides at Jawbone Park.
But if you’re in the market for pure, ripe, locally grown strawberries, stop by the Upshur Visitors Center and pick up a pint or two for $5 a pop.
This article was produced in a paid partnership with the Upshur County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.