History: 100 years ago in Edmonds, strawberries were king

A strawberry field in north Edmonds circa 1920s. The Edmonds wharf can be seen in the distance. (Photo courtesy University of Washington Digital Collections)

Strawberries were once a flourishing industry in the Edmonds-Richmond Beach area.  It was such a successful enterprise that the North Edmonds Fruit Growers Association was founded in 1918.

The industry had grown to a point that the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce and the North Edmonds Fruit Growers Association, headed by L.S. Keeton, decided to hold the first-ever Edmonds Strawberry Festival in Edmonds City Park on June 21, 1922.

The 1922 Edmonds Strawberry Festival

According to accounts in the Edmonds Tribune Review, all the stores in town closed at noon on the 21st and everyone was invited to the festivities during the afternoon and evening. People were instructed to bring their picnic baskets, blankets and energy for a day of fun and celebration. Strawberries and ice cream were going to be provided free to everyone.

The afternoon started off with a number of sporting competitions, including races organized by gender and age as well as ball throwing and horseshoe pitching contests for adults.

Those contests were followed by a half-hour concert of community singing led by  W.H. Dunbar and Harry Deland.

The attendees were then encouraged to throw out their tablecloths on the ground across the park, relax, eat and then enjoy the free dessert.

Enjoying the strawberry festival’s ice cream and strawberries in 1922. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

A baseball game between the Edmonds baseball team and the team from Standard Oil at Wells Point was played in the late afternoon.  Edmonds won the game 5-3.

The Edmonds Concert Band rounded out the day’s entertainment with a two-hour concert.

The 1923 Edmonds Strawberry Festival

The second strawberry festival was held on Wednesday, June 13, 1923.  Stores closed at noon again and hundreds of people attended the event despite it being a rather rainy day. Reportedly 23 crates of strawberries were served to the attendees.

The most notable addition to the festival that year was a tug-of-war event between the men that lived on the north side of Main Street versus the men who lived on the south side of Main. The north side proved victorious and received a box of quality cigars.

A tug-o-war contest. (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

The Edmonds Strawberry Festival took a hiatus in 1924 and 1925….possibly due to poor crops.

The 1926 Edmonds Strawberry Festival

The festival resumed on June 11, 1926, and was hosted by the Edmonds Chamber Of Commerce. Stores once again closed at noon. The athletic contests were expanded to include three-legged races, gunny sack races and a fat man race. Pie-eating and milk-drinking contests were also added. The tug-of-war contest was again won by the team from the north side of town.

The hundreds of attendees were treated to fresh strawberries picked at local Edmonds and Richmond Beach farms.

A circa 1920s-1930s strawberry flat and boxes. (Photo courtesy Shoreline Historical Museum)

In 1926, both the Edmonds Concert Band and the Standard Oil band entertained the attendees while playing in the newly completed bandstand in Edmonds City Park.

Standard Oil Band circa 1920s. (Photo courtesy Shoreline Historical Museum)

In 1927, the strawberry festival was cancelled apparently due to a late-arriving crop.  The spring had been much cooler and cloudier than normal.

The 1928 Edmonds Strawberry Festival

The addition of selecting a queen and her court from Edmonds and surrounding areas brought a new level of excitement to the June 16, 1928 strawberry festival.

Signe Carlson of Edmonds was chosen as Queen of the Edmonds Strawberry festival. (Article courtesy of Sno-Isle Genealogical Society)

The festivities began with the coronation of the queen, which was conducted at the Edmonds city triangle at 5th and Bell. Mayor Fred Fourtner then presented the queen with a key to the city.

The queen’s court consisted of Maid of Honor Mae Carpenter and attending maids Verna Evensen, Inez McNish, Edna Bacon, Catherine Gillies and Lillian Heath, who were next introduced.

The queen and her court then led a parade to City Park for the rest of the day’s activities.

Reportedly over 2,000 heaping dishes of strawberries and shortcake were served that afternoon, and over 20 sporting events were conducted in and around the park.

That evening a grand ball was held at the Edmonds Opera House honoring the queen and her court.

The 1929 Edmonds Strawberry Festival

The festival was expanded to two days in 1929, on June 22 and 23. The festival had originally been scheduled for June 8 and 9 but the strawberries were three weeks late in ripening due to cool weather.  

The excitement surrounding the choosing of the queen and her court started at the first of June. The candidates for queen were pictured in a June 2 edition of the Edmonds Tribune-Review.

The 1929 Strawberry Festival Court, L-R: Ethel Woodfield, Hazel Baker, Gertie Gustafson, Myrtle Hildebrand and Esther Fisher. Catherine Gillies was also a candidate, but not in the photo. (Courtesy Sno-Isle Genealogical Society)
Hazel Baker from Edmonds was chosen as queen and Ethel Woodfield was the queen’s maid of honor. (Photo courtesy Sno-Isle Genealogical Society)

The coronation that year was held at the city park’s bandstand. Reportedly 300-400 people came to the grand ball at the Opera House Saturday evening, and 3,000 people attended the two-day event.

The Edmonds Tribune-Review reported the winners of various events including:

  • The Percy Bartlett twins won the baby contest
  • Ray Doty was named the most popular man
  • Harry Deland won the milk-drinking contest for businessmen…which was accompanied by the side note, “no one knows exactly how much milk Harry consumed, but three cows called in sick the next day.”
  • Ben McClean of Esperance won the open sack race, beating all comers.
A sack race. (Photo courtesy of the Museum of History and Industry, Seattle)

The 1930 Edmonds Strawberry Festival

The 1930 strawberry festival was again a two-day event, June 14 and 15. The queen and court selection was a highly contested one.  If named queen, the newly crowned individual had added reponsibilities that year. She had to represent the city at an event at Playland, the newly opened amusement park at Bitter Lake. She also was required to make a trip to Victoria, B.C. on a ferry while representing the City of Edmonds.

Thelma Naslund of Edmonds was chosen as queen following the contest finals at the Princess Theater.  (Photo courtesy of the Seattle Times and Sno-Isle Genealogical Society)

Phyllis Van of Richmond Beach was maid of honor and on the court were Gwendolyn Markley of Richmond Highlands; Nine Greene of Alderwood Manor; Florence Crary of Seattle Heights, Cedar Valley and Esperance; and Margaret Van Wey of Maplewood, North Edmonds and Meadowdale.

The coronation occurred on Saturday afternoon at City Park and festivities including live dance music at the park and at the Opera House, which continued into the night. Saturday afternoon featured the “The Fat Edmonds Men” vs “The Lean Edmonds Men” baseball teams.  The Fat Men team won 5-4 in the five-inning game.

Other activities included “The Shoes On The Wrong Foot” foot race, barrel fights, wheelbarrow race and a peanut in a spoon race. A merry-go-round was brought in for smaller children.

People from as far away as Auburn and Bellingham drove to the festival to join in the activities. Surprisingly, there weren’t any reports of parking issues during the two days.

Heading to Edmonds for the strawberry festival. (Photo courtesy Shoreline Historical Museum)

On Sunday, the Edmonds baseball team defeated North Bend 8-2 and radio music was played throughout the park courtesy of Dewey Leyda.

According to the Edmonds Tribune-Review, between 4,000 and 5,000 people enjoyed the free strawberry shortcake during the two-day festival while visiting the various venues and events.

Author’s note: After 1930, the Edmonds Strawberry Festival was discontinued. One key factor was that the Great Depression affected discretionary income and spending. By the time the downturn had ended, many of the strawberry fields were gone. Now, folks, all we need is for everyone to plant strawberries.

This article was researched and written by Byron Wilkes. Thanks go to the Edmonds Historical Museum, the Shoreline Historical Museum, Sno-Isle Genealogical Society, the Museum of History and Industry and the University of Washington Digital Collections for their research help.

 

  1. We’ve got about a half dozen strawberries growing, happy to contribute if this festival gets revived! 😉

  2. Thank-you Byron for such a fun and delightfully written article! I loved the bit about cows calling in sick! Keep up the good work. Lots of Edmonds history yet to enjoy…..

    1. Maurine, thanks for the information and link. I was not aware of the festival. Might have to attend.

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