Two of the 2023 Middle Tennessee Strawberry Festival’s most exciting events will open on May 11th, and both will be relocating to Richland Park.
The Portland, Tenn. Farmers’ Market will be starting its summer season, moving from Main Street City Square to the new location in Richland Park, and the 2nd Annual Strawberry Festival Art Showcase will relocate from Milo’s Café to Richland Gym.
The Farmers’ Market hours are from 3:30 to 7 p.m. on May 11th, and every Thursday thereafter, until the end of August, and the art Showcase hours will be from 4-7 p.m.
Both the Farmers’ Market and the Art Showcase have partnered with the Portland Parks and Recreation Department due to a pleasant problem — too much business and not enough room.
A third popular staple of the Strawberry Festival — the carnival — is also in operation on May 11th.
The Art Showcase
The 2nd Annual Strawberry Art Showcase began in 2022 by Shandi Owens. A native of Dickinson County in southwestern Virginia, Owens was raised in a very small coal town called Clinchco. She moved to Portland in 2018. After spending some time searching for art outlets that fit her — both by age and by price — she decided to start her own exhibit and turned to the Portland Chamber of Commerce. “They were very encouraging and invited me to come to the Chamber office for a meeting, and the idea for the Strawberry Festival Art Showcase was born.”
Owens began advertising, creating a flyer she posted everywhere she could think of, both digitally and physically. It turned out that there were quite a few people like her, including artists in the area looking for good places to show their art.
The first Strawberry Festival Showcase successfully opened at Milo’s Café. “We used two rooms adjacent to the café, and we had a good turnout, and a lot of people came.”
This year, Owens doubled her advertising efforts, and as a result, the number of artists has practically exploded. “Right now, I have 54 artists signed up, with more to come. I haven’t even received the list of artists from the high school and elementary schools yet.”
The need for space led Owens to approach the Parks and Recreation Department, and Richland Gym was found. “It should be the perfect venue for us. We have more room, so the artists can bring larger pieces. Richland Gym even has tables and chairs we can use — it’s perfect for our needs.”
Because of the number of exhibits, each artist is allowed up to three works of art of any size. “There’s no fee to enter,” said Owens, “and I don’t have any age requirements. I do ask to receive a photo of the art, just to make sure there’s nothing vulgar or offensive.”
“This project is my baby, and honestly, a dream come true,” said Owens. “I’m beyond happy and blessed to have created something for anyone and everyone to be a part of. That so many people are excited about it really means the world to me.”
For more information, call Shandi Owens at 276-870-6661.
The Farmers’ Market
Since its inception in 2017, the Farmers’ Market has been located on the town square, but according to new Market Manager Hannah Ladd, “We just outgrew it.”
The Farmers’ Market was started by Lisa Davis and began having its opening day during Strawberry Festival week under the management of Michelle Harbin of Harbin Hollow Market. “Michelle ran the Farmers’ Market for three years, and passed the reins to me this year,” explained Ladd.
The Farmer’s Market will have three produce farmers to start the season off: Wade Farmz, Family Traditions Farm, and Natureworks. “A little bit later on in the season, Cedar Grove Farms joins us with peaches and blackberries.”
At the time of this printing, the vendor list was far from complete, but Ladd easily ticked off an impressive list of committed participants. “We have Little White House Apothecary — that’s me,” said Ladd. “I carry natural medicines, tinctures and teas, dried herbs, and soon, I hope, beautiful cut flowers.”
She continued the list. “We have the Be Brave Farm, our new bread vendor this year, BT Leighs, which carries spices and dry rubs, and Treat Joself — macaroons made by Jo Self. We have Roast and Brews — a coffee vendor. He sells bags of coffee beans, and you can also buy iced coffee. We have The Blond Sfoglina, handmade Italian pasta, which is another new vendor. And then we have Jay’s Meats, and Petite Pearl’s Shaved Ice will be back. Oh, and another new one is Tennessee Grace, with homemade wood décor. Kevin Rickert will be there as our honey guy. He took two years off but he’s coming back because I begged him!”
Several food trucks, including Cantrell’s, will also be at the Farmers’ Market.
The move to Richland Park was necessary due to overcrowding, according to Ladd. “We were cramped, and our food trucks had trouble getting in and out. There are so many businesses on Main Street now, which I am grateful for, but we just needed to find a bigger space.”
Ladd asked the parks department if they could find a place for the market, and Richland Park was deemed perfect. “I specifically wanted a park,” she said. “I want people to be able to stay, relax, and eat, At the park, people can sit on the grass or use the picnic tables. I envision it being a community place where there’s enough room to gather, not just swing by.”
Ladd says the weather was perfect last year for strawberries, but with the summer came a drought. “Farming is always about weather,” she said. “And we didn’t have good weather last summer. But like every farmer before me, I’m hoping for better weather this year!”
Ladd’s family lives on the farm where she grew up — C & S Farms, created by her grandparents Charles and Sue Butt. Her father still runs the farm, assisted by the rest of the family.
Ladd spends her days working for the other family business — Butt Plumbing, which is owned by her brother. She handles the office, typically accompanied by Winnie, a seven-month-old black lab, who sat obediently for her picture to be taken and seemed to agree wholeheartedly with her owner: “We need good weather this year because we’ve got a great Farmers Market planned.”
To sum it up, May 11th is going to be an exceptional Strawberry Festival Day to browse works of art, eat dinner at the Farmers’ Market, and go back to see more art.
And of course, for the more adventurous souls, the carnival is open on May 11th as well from 5 p.m. until closing. Another great option.
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