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Strawberry season kicks off in Independence

Pam Slade of Independence takes a break from volunteering at the Vaile Strawberry festival to enjoy her strawberry shortcake. The festival, held Saturday, has been a tradition at the Vaile Mansion for 28 years.
Pam Slade of Independence takes a break from volunteering at the Vaile Strawberry festival to enjoy her strawberry shortcake. The festival, held Saturday, has been a tradition at the Vaile Mansion for 28 years.

Sherry Goucher has been coming to the Vaile Strawberry Festival since it started 28 years ago, and the rain didn’t keep her away Saturday.

“This has become a family tradition,” said the Independence native, as her daughter and granddaughter stood close by. “We always eat strawberry shortcake and kettle corn and take a carriage ride. This is something we always look forward to.”

Dozens of craft and antique booths surrounded the Vaile Mansion grounds in Independence, and local dance groups performed in spite of the sporadic rain showers. About 600 pounds of strawberries was served over ice cream and shortcake, festival chairman Ron Potter said.

“This festival and Christmas are the two main fundraisers for the mansion,” Potter said. “Sometimes we’ll have 10,000 people come through if the weather is nice, plus we’re the first big strawberry festival of the year.”

Jim Steffens, master of ceremonies for the fest, said it was the worst rain the event has had since he joined 10 years ago.

“It probably has negatively impacted attendance by 60 percent,” Steffens said. “People wanted us to change it to Sunday, but with the equipement rental, we just had to stick it out.”

Usually the fest runs out of strawberries by the end of the day, Potter said, but this year there was about 100 pounds left over, which the Vaile Victorian Society donated to the Salvation Army.

Jason and Sara Patton of Independence brought their kids Blake, 9, and Kaylee, 4, to the festival for this first time this year. The family recently moved into a house nearby, and coming to the festival was a great way to learn more about Independence history, Jason Patton said.

“Can we do this every year?” Kaylee asked her mother, as she and Blake split a strawberry shortcake.

To reach Caroline Bauman, call 816-234-4449 or send email to cbauman@kcstar.com.

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