Strawberry Festival plans detailed for Monett Kiwanians

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Businessman and downtown Monett promoter Shaun Bennett described plans for the 2012 Strawberry Festival in Monett at last week's meeting of the Monett Kiwanis Club.

Bennett, introduced by program chairman Jon Suit, thanked the Kiwanians and the City of Monett for supporting the festival in its first year. For the second year, Bennett said the festival would expand, extending from Third Street to east of Fifth Street.

The festival is part of efforts to rejuvenate downtown Monett. Bennett stressed the unique character of the downtown recalls Monett's heritage as a railroad center. His business, at 316 E. Broadway, is in a building erected in 1892.

"Downtown needs to be the community's cultural center," Bennett said.

The Strawberry Festival offers a brandable name celebrating Monett's pivotal role as a marketing and shipping center for the strawberry industry. Bennett said the festival attracted an estimated 1,800 people last year and 56 vendors.

The festival had a positive impact, Bennett said. New businesses have come into the district since then, and the city took positive steps toward a major flood control plan, moving on the purchase of the Olympia Foundry property. Drury University also announced plans for a downtown campus and pushed its fundraising effort.

For the 2012 festival on June 1 through June 2, Bennett hopes to build on its successes. The Monett Area YMCA's inflatables will be added on the west end of the event. Food vendors will be concentrated into a food court for general convenience.

Attractions will increase, Bennett said. The Christian Motorcycle Association is planning a bike show. The bake-off, royalty, art show and live entertainment will offer many activities.

The key to the event's uniqueness is the focus on the strawberry tradition, Bennett said. "Vendors will be restricted to selling hand-crafted items made by the sellers, hopefully using the strawberry theme. Not-for-profit organizations will be able to get free booth space," Bennett said.

The festival offers many opportunities to help. Bennett said volunteers are needed for set up and tear down, general coordination, running the information booth, operating the sound system and helping with issues such as lost children. Bennett would like to have 100 people helping.

Sponsors are also needed. Three banks served as sponsors last year, and Meeks Lumber donated wood for the stage. Bennett said every contribution helps. The festival has piggybacked off the not-for-profit organization of Monett Downtown Betterment, making donations tax deductible.

For additional information, call Bennett at 772-7092 or festival co-chairman Donna Hammond at 489-6680.

Kiwanis President Eric Kean presided at the meeting. Kean told club members he and Suit had attended the mid-winter Kiwanis district convention and brought back a number of good ideas for the local club. Plans were discussed about the Kiwanis International convention in New Orleans in June.

The Monett Kiwanis Club meets for a program and a meal at noon on Tuesdays, usually at Happy House restaurant.

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