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37th Strawberry Festival Brings Sweet Fruit into the Spotlight

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The 37th Annual Strawberry Festival in Owego once again brought the sweet fruit into the spotlight on Day One of the weekend event. While the strawberries were the star of the evening, it was the small businesses that filled Front Street that reaped the benefits.

Janelle Malia is one of the Festival Organizers, but she also owns the Black Cat Gallery, an artisan's retail store that promotes local artists. She says her business always does better when more people are in the area.

"We often get people that don't know about us and are coming to the Festival for the first time and we have repeat visitors that are always interested and intrigued in what we have to offer," said Malia. "We do this event to invite people into the community so they can see what we have to offer, we're a charming little Town in Upstate, New York."

Others like AnneMarie Mantei, who has been working at Ice Cream Works for the last two years agrees that this day really does help out the neighborhood stores.

"It just gets our business name out there and more people walking by and since we're right on Front Street, then there's lots of people around," said Mantei.

Being the only ice cream store represented at the Festival, things can get busy.

"Today is a lot crazier since it's a lot more local people, but tomorrow is somewhat slower be as it's more out-of-towners and they're kind of wandering around, but we are usually the busiest place," said Mantei. Just another chance for the ice cream shop to grow their client base.

Some people rely on the Strawberry Festival to sell their crops and make a profit.

"I got to get down to my last 10% for me to make money, so I need to sell 90% of my stuff before we actually get ahead," said Robert Grannis, Owner of Robbie's Produce.

Grannis is a lifelong resident of Broome County, he grew up in Endicott and says his business "peaked out in 2007"

"Our area is having some difficult times," said Grannis. He hopes a good weekend can turn his business around.

Then there are the people who take strawberries outside of the box, that would be Adam Skidias, who works for B&B Kettle Korn, he makes the popcorn a little different for the Festival.

"They just take a second glance and say 'is that pink corn?' Then they recognize that it's strawberry and then their second question is 'does it taste like strawberries?' Which yeah it does," said Skidias.

He always appreciates the community support at the Festival.

"This is one of our best events with the community coming out to support all of us," said Skidias as he ran back over to the popcorn maker to make sure it didn't burn.

The idea to flavor the popcorn with strawberry powder came when he was looking for a new job.

"We just think thematically, during Fourth of July, we'll do a red, white and blue corn and anytime there's a festival we try to adapt our corn to it," said Skidias.

The Festival officially kicked off at 5:00 p.m., but at 6:15 p.m. hundreds of people filled the streets for the 6th annual Strawberry Shake 5K Walk/Run. Proceeds from the event go to support the Festival.

More than 800 people participated in the event in 2016. Event organizers hoped to break that number tonight.

The event continues on Saturday, June 17 with a parade at 10:00 a.m. and more festivities from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Organizers want the public to be aware of multiple street closures through Saturday night.

You can find a full schedule for the rest of the weekend here.