By GARRETT NEESE
Houghton Daily Mining Gazette
CHASSELL - The 66th annual Copper Country Strawberry Festival brought thousands of people to Chassell for strawberry shortcake, a parade and more.
Float riders wave to the crowd during the Copper Country Strawberry Festival parade in Chassell Saturday. Thousands of people attended the parade and other festival events. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Garrett Neese)
Saturday morning, people perched on the sidewalks along Willson Memorial Highway to watch the annual parade, which included a number of berry-themed entrants.
Elaine Crouter of Chassell comes to the Queen coronation, has food and looks at the vendors in the park. But the parade's always her favorite - particularly the bands and floats.
"It was wonderful," she said. "It's the best parade up here. Always. Every year."
After the last float crossed, many of those watching streamed into Chassell Centennial Park, where lines wound down the park for strawberry shortcake and chicken barbecue.
The Lions Club prepares 3,600 strawberry shortcakes, the stockpile of which was dwindling throughout the afternoon.
Friday's rainy weather still brought a reliable supply of customers, said past Lions Club president Lois Berg. But on a sunnier Saturday, they opened a second line to handle demand.
"Today, they're coming out in droves," she said.
Eric Sauvola of Painesdale was watching his daughter Ariana, 6, try to throw a ping-pong ball into one of numerous bowls to win a prize.
A Chassell native, he said the Strawberry Festival is an annual bonding experience for his family.
"It's basically a family reunion," he said. "Everybody congregates at my mom's house. The kids have fun in the park."
Once people had their fill of food, they could mill about looking at booths selling everything from agates to stuffed animals.
Bonnie's Bakery gave visitors to its booth a chance to a spin a wheel for a free sample. Paul Werner, whose daughter is the namesake of the company, said, "We've had visitors from Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and of course, Michigan," he said. "The festival really brings in a large geography of visitors. It's fantastic."
Other festivities included a pancake breakfast, barbecue chicken dinner provided by Chassell Fire Department and First Responders, a quilt show at Holy Trinity Church, free 45-minute scientific excursions aboard Michigan Technological University's research vessel Agassiz, free wagon rides from Snowland Livestock's Steve Palosaari, the Friends of Fashion vintage fashion show about the early years of Chassell and live music by Rolling Thunder.
New this year, the Lions also held a 5-kilometer/2K Fun Run to benefit Simple Kindness for Youth.