Potomac: Church’s Strawberry Festival Marks 25 Years

Coordinating annual event proves to be a family affair.

Hungry for Judith Dubowy’s delectable strawberry shortcake, Becky Queen’s famous chocolate-covered strawberries, home-made baked goods or grilled hamburgers and hotdogs and pulled pork? Ready to find that one-of-a-kind gift for a friend or loved one at Vendor Alley? Or snatch a bargain from Home Treasures or the Chic Boutique? All this and more await eager, hungry shoppers at the 25th Annual Potomac United Methodist Church (PUMC) Strawberry Festival on Saturday, May 16 from 10 a.m. - 4p.m.

The Strawberry Festival is a spring event that, for the past five years, has attracted more than 1,000 people to the PUMC Education Building at 9908 South Glen Road in Potomac — at the intersection of Falls Road and Democracy. When it began in 1990, members of the church would travel to local orchards on the Friday before the event to pick the strawberries. Then they would gather in the church kitchen late into the evening to wash and cut the strawberries and prepare them for the legendary strawberry shortcake and chocolate-covered strawberries.

Three women from PUMC were responsible for launching the festival — Charly Ryan, Judith Dubowy and Frances Broadhurst. They have fond memories of bringing their children to the festival, encouraging them to help wherever they could, and allowing them to select toys and books to purchase from donated items. Now, two of those children, Shannon Ryan and Jennifer Dubowy are following in their mothers’ footsteps, chairing the same committees as their mothers chaired. Mother-daughter teams include Charly and Shannon Ryan, in charge of the Silent Auction committee, and Judith with daughter, Jennifer who is following in sister Traci’s footsteps as the head of the strawberry dessert committee — because only family members know the secret biscuit recipe. Shannon and Jennifer are proud to be “daughters-in-charge” — and happy to continue the family tradition of contributing to the success of the festival.

“I think it’s wonderful to be able to mentor my daughters as they carry on the family tradition,” Judith Dubowy said. “The Strawberry Festival has been a truly meaningful family affair for us for 25 years — and I know we will stay involved as long as we can.”

“One of the favorite festival jokes,” said Jennifer Dubowy who helped out with the strawberry picking from age 6, “is that I had to be told to not pick the green strawberries. I remember always helping my mom at the festival — and, of course, everyone raved about my mom’s shortcake biscuits. Since we won’t share the ‘secret family’ recipe, this is the only time that many people ever get them. Some tell me they crave them all year and have to eat at least two helpings when they come to the festival.”

A line usually forms long before 10 o’clock, and, when the doors open, people run to the chocolate-covered strawberry display, to check out the “Home Treasures” and peruse the nearly-new clothing in the “Chic Boutique.”

Many head to the vendor area to see what Stella and Dot, Glitz Bracelets, Delightful Crafts, Tres Jolie Designs, Queen Bee, Pearl Fine Teas, Tibet Sky Emporium and the many other vendors are offering. Another popular room is the Silent Auction where one can bid on gift certificates for local restaurants such as the Irish Inn, Normandy Farms, Potomac Pizza and more, dinners from The Market at River Falls, a stay at the Norwich Inn in Vermont, sports tickets, vacation homes and other items.

New this year will be a book signing and discussion by Amy Riolo, author of “The Ultimate Mediterranean Diet Cookbook” which features “recipes from 25 countries in the region including perennial favorites, little known treasures and recent discoveries.” Riolo is an award-winning author, chef, television personality, cuisine and culture expert, and educator. She serves as Culinary Advisor for The Mediterranean Food Alliance. Another topic that she often lectures on is diabetes and her book, “The Mediterranean Diabetes Cookbook,” was named “Best Diabetes Cookbook Ever” by DiabetesMine.com. She will be lecturing from 1-3 p.m. in the Book Sale room.

Not to be forgotten is that the proceeds of this Potomac tradition raise funds for many local charities. Last year the Strawberry Festival raised more than $20,000 to assist local organizations that support women and children.

For more infomation, call the church office 301-299-9383 or by email: frontdesk@potomac-umc.org.