Not much is known about the origins
of the first-ever Mattituck's Lion Club Strawberry Festival.
What is known is that the first Strawberry Festival in Mattituck in 1954 was a one-day long event, served food and beverages and brought in a grand total of $787. Fifty-nine years later, the festival spans three days long, continues to serve patrons food and beverages when they are not on rides or playing games at booths and donates proceeds to 29 organizations across the East End.
The Mattituck Lion's Club 59th Annual Strawberry Festival on Thursday, June 13th through Sunday, June 16th, will feature lots of berries, bigger rides, a continued tradition of free admission for dads on Father's Day and an abundance of charity work.
This year, the festival will be using so many berries that not all of them will be from the immediate East End area. The strawberries by the gate that are under a "locally-grown" banner are from nearby areas.
"With the amount of strawberries that we use, there are not enough locally grown to supply them," said Phil Centonze, the promotions chairman for the strawberry festival. (Centonze ran the festival in 1991.)
When visitors are not devouring strawberries, the rides this year are supposed to be better than ever. Walking around the fair, Centonze said that the rides were noticeably bigger.
There are also new business and craft vendors.
"It's fairly gigantic and crazy," he said.
As always, dads will be given free admission with a paid child on the last day in honor of Father's Day. Normally, tickets are $25 for adults with rides.
"Not only do they get free admission, basically come with a child and they get to ride the rides for free with a paid child," Centonze said.
The festival is deliberately held during the weekend of Father's Day as Mattituck's special way to celebrate the annual holiday.
While Hamptons and East End residents are walking around the event, festival organizers are in the background divvying up the proceeds between various organizations and charities. This year, some of the 29 organizations include the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, Clearly School for the Deaf and the Make-a Wish Foundation among others.
Centonze said that the board of directors and treasury committee sometimes helps out individuals- particularly those struggling with blindness, deafness and diabetes. Lions International was originally founded to help Helen Keller.
"We'll consider any request for help and that's what we're all about," Centonze said. "One hundred percent gets donated to charities."
Despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars and year-long planning it takes to pull everything together, Centonze is excited for the festival.
"It's a slice of heaven with a berry on top," Centonze said.
For more information visit mattituckstrawberryfestival.org
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