Although you wouldn’t know it by looking at the place today, for much of its history Bellevue has been a predominantly agricultural community. Strawberries have played an especially prominent role in the growth and development of the city, and at one time before World War 2, there were more than 200 acres of strawberry fields within the present Bellevue city limits. Because of this, in 1925 a number of civic and business leaders in the community organized the first Strawberry Festival in Bellevue, an event which attracted thousands of visitors, and would continue to grow for years, until World War 2 caused the cancellation of the Strawberry Festival in 1942, as many of the Japanese farmers who grew strawberries in Bellevue were sent to internment camps in California for the duration of the conflict. For more information of the history of the Strawberry Festival in Bellevue, you can go to this page, and over at HistoryLink there is an essay written in 1934 by a college student describing memories of one of the earliest festivals.
After the war, it would take more than forty years before the Strawberry Festival was revived; first as a one-night event hosted by the Bellevue Historical Society in 1987, then as a full-scale civic festival by the Eastside Heritage Center in 2003. This year’s festival was held over the past weekend at Crossroads Park, providing a glance into the history of Bellevue in days now long forgotten, as well as a look at the Bellevue of today. After the jump you will find some of the highlights of my visit to the Strawberry Festival.
This festival comes with all the standard features you would expect from a civic celebration of this type, including plenty of food, and lots of arts and crafts vendors and representatives from other local businesses. Here you see someone recruiting volunteers for Microsoft usability studies next to a vendor selling scented candles.
During the time I was attending the festival, the entertainment on the main stage was being provided by one Julius Pierpont Patches, erstwhile Mayor of the City Dump and longtime Seattle childrens’ show host. This August will mark the 50th anniversary of the debut of the JP Patches show in Seattle (the character was actually created earlier in Minnesota by a different performer), and will be celebrated by he unveiling of a new statue in his honor in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. Even though the JP Patches show has been off the air since 1981, it would seem that there are still plenty of Patches Pals out there. HistoryLink also has an essay on JP Patches, along with a number of vintage photos.
As might be expected of a festival being put on by the local historical society, there was plenty of history to be found here. The most notable of the exhibits was the display of a number of pieces of vintage farming equipment, including this John Deere tractor that was running and being used to power a corn milling machine.
Also present were a number of manual and gas-powered water pumps, one of which is shown here.
Nearby in some of the tents, there were several collections of various old tools for people to attempt to identify. The answers couple be found on the backs of each of these.
Of course, a strawberry festival without any strawberries would tend to be somewhat pointless, and they were more than happy to oblige:
Unfortunately, I suspect that the strawberries used in the festival are probably no longer of local origin (it’s kind of difficult to grow too much stuff when you’ve got houses and skyscrapers covering up most of the old farmland) but with as delicious as the Strawberry Shortcake was, who was complaining?